April 29, 2014

RSVP – Lead With Experience

By Bill Sedlacek
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Eastern Iowa and Western Illnois

RSVP Volunteers Lead by Example at Recognition Events

In the past, this column has recognized RSVP members who Dave Layton refers to as “Heavy Hitters”– those who selflessly devote large amounts of time and effort to better the lives of others in this bit of the Midwest that we all call home. While there are many RSVP Heavy Hitters equally deserving of recognition here, we’d like to shift emphasis a bit and tell you about some individuals who have been helped by RSVP volunteers.

But first, we’d like to remind you that since 1963, May has been National Older American’s Month. This month we celebrate the vitality of older adults and their contributions to our communities. Last year’s slogan fittingly was “Unleash the Power of Age,” in recognition of the role seniors play in society as they share essential talents, wisdom and life experiences and by doing so, stay positive, active and looking forward. You can learn more about Older Americans Month at the website: http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/Press_Room/Observances/2013/Older_Americans.aspx.

A related recognition event is Senior Corps Week, May 19-23, during which Senior Corps volunteers will be recognized for the positive impact their contributions provide to their communities. This website has more information: http://www.nat-ionalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps/senior-corps-week.

Now here are a few real examples of our local volunteering making a difference. These examples were provided by RSVP Volunteers at the RSVP 2014 Recognition event on April 15 at Milan Community Center.

“Two men–both in their 70’s–were not familiar with current computer technology and communication, but wanted to learn. An RSVP volunteer explained the e-mail process and established accounts for them. The volunteer spent the time needed to assure that the men knew how to use the accounts and had them log in and out repeatedly. When the men left they were confident of their new skills and were very happy. One gentleman had tears in his eyes and said he was going to go home and e-mail his grandson”

“An RSVP Befriender (volunteers that provide a listening ministry) at a local hospital noticed a young man looking very worried and nervous. The Befriender asked the young man if he had someone in surgery. The young man said no–he was awaiting the results of an asthma test. He very much wanted to enlist in the Army and needed to prove the asthma he had in the past was not severe enough to prevent him from joining. The Befriender sat with the young man, asked about his family and kept him company, easing his anxiety over the test. The Befriender asked for and got the young man’s permission to put his initials in the chapel prayer book. Returning, the Befriender saw the young man smiling and holding up test results proving he was well enough to join the Army. The comfort this volunteer provided during a stressful time is something that young man will long remember”

“Although they may not be able to speak of it, Alzheimer patients are eased out of their withdrawal a bit by music or a gentle, comforting touch, which many of our RSVP volunteers provide. These connections are precious.”

“One of our VITA (Volunteers in Tax Assistance) RSVP’s described the relief in people’s eyes when he helped them in filing their tax returns”

“A very young girl gratefully hugged the leg of an RSVP food bank volunteer. Even at her young age she knows first-hand of the food insecurity that exists in our society. Her bright smile and innocent childlike gratitude and for the help was genuine and touching”

In past columns, the “Heavy Hitter” volunteers spotlighted have all emphasized the positive spiritual and physical benefits they got from volunteering. The above instances citing the positive impact volunteers have on the lives of others should leave no doubt of their immense value to our community. You too can contribute as a volunteer at your personal comfort level by calling RSVP at 309-793-4425 or going to the website http://www.wiaaa.org/retired-and-senior-volunteer-program.html

Filed Under: Community