January 30, 2014

RSVP – Lead With Experience

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

Mary Cirivello
“Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader.”

That’s what I thought while Mary Cirivello began discussing volunteering. If Mary, a cheerleader in high school, projected the same spirit and enthusiasm as a cheerleader then as she now does for volunteering, she must have helped win more than a few high school games.

Mary has lived in the area all her life. Like so many RSVP folks I have met, she believes that this is a great community and wants to make it even better by volunteering. Well now, I have to retract part of that last sentence. She and I met for the interview on one of those January days when Mother Nature could not decide between snow, high winds, rain or gloomy clouds and threw a bit of each at us. Mary and I agreed that January weather is one thing not so great about our community. We also agreed that getting out (if we could) and volunteering is a good way distract us from January and dull its bitter edge.

Mary’s working life was mainly spent at the John Deere Administrative Center. She worked there for 21 years, with breaks for raising a family. Her career could have been longer, but as she said and as most of us can remember, in “those days” women only worked a few months into a pregnancy and stayed home while the children were young.

Mary retired in 1984 to help care for her aging mother. She also lost her husband, Jim, that same year. This was her second loss of spouse. Her first husband, David St. Clair, the father of her son and daughter, died from a tragic accident in 1965. Not one to let grief get the upper hand, she then turned to volunteering after losing Jim. She said that it helped her cope with the void in her life, and knowing that she was helping others lifted her spirits.

Making good use of the administrative skills she gained from her work at Deere, Mary began volunteering at a number of places. She has volunteered at both Illinois Trinity Hospital locations, the Red Cross, the Public Broadcaster, WQPT, the Child Abuse Council, and has graded papers and helped in other ways with students at the Math and Science Academy in Rock Island where her granddaughter was a teacher.

Mary remains active in her personal life too. She likes to sew, and loves to have the grandchildren and great-grandchildren over whenever she can. Weather permitting, she goes out every day, meeting friends for lunch or coffee and, of course, doing her volunteer work. While talking to her, I was reminded of the TV commercial aimed at folks in the age group that we occupy. I believe it goes like this “A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” Mary is proof of that being in motion is a very good idea, and volunteering can help keep you stay in motion.

We all became excited when Mary won the November $25 VISA gift card drawing from RSVP members who reported their hours that month. Not only is she a great volunteer cheerleader, but she reports her hours to us faithfully every month. She has served over 5,900 lifetime hours through RSVP! Congratulations Mary! To learn more how you can cheer for your community call RSVP at (309)793-4425 or email rsvp@wiaaa.org.