When Harry Scher turned 95 last year, he celebrated by doing something he does every week; volunteering! For nearly 30 years, the Manalapan senior has volunteered with our SHIP program (the State Health Insurance Assistance Program), helping his peers find answers to their Medicare questions. He is one of more than 200 senior volunteers who come to FCS through our Retired and Senior Volunteer Service (RSVP) program, a federally-funded program of The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). RSVP leverages the lifetime of skills and experience of older volunteers to improve the lives of others in our community. Unfortunately, it and all other CNCS programs are designated for elimination under the Federal 2018 budget.
This April, during National Volunteer Month, we think it’s important to recognize the significant contributions of volunteers like Harry who, though their service, make it possible for nonprofit organizations likes ours to carry out their Mission in the community. At FCS, we have 175 specially-trained Reading Buddies volunteers who work with more than 1,600 students in Monmouth County public schools each week, providing over 4,600 hours of reading guidance to young children who need it the most. Another 20 volunteers work with our Healthy Buddies program, helping elementary school students develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors needed to maintain and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. And 17 volunteers, including Harry, offer free, impartial guidance to eligible Medicare beneficiaries throughout the year as part of our SHIP program. Our CNCS grant provides funding for training, materials, insurance and other administrative costs, but volunteers help make the funds go much farther. We literally couldn’t do it without them. According to a recent government report, more than 21 million older adults – nearly a quarter of those 55 and older – contributed more than 3.3 billion hours of service in their communities in 2015, including 5,100 senior volunteers in New Jersey. Their total service hours have an estimated economic benefit of $77 billion.
There are other benefits to volunteer service. Our retired volunteers find fulfillment by utilizing the skills and experiences they have acquired throughout their lifetime. A growing body of research points to the mental and physical health benefits associated with volunteering, including lower mortality rates, increased strength and energy, decreased rates of depression, and fewer physical limitations. Harry Scher is living proof. At 95, he not only volunteers with FCS, but with his synagogue, Meals on Wheels, and other nonprofit organizations each week. With nearly one in every five Americans projected to be age 60 or older by 2030, a great opportunity exists to engage older Americans in service to meet critical community needs while contributing to longer, healthier lives. As the oldest, private nonprofit social service agency in Monmouth County and a leading volunteer organization, we invite interested seniors to contact our office to learn more. And to all the volunteers who give so generously of their time and talent to improve the quality of life in our communities, we say, thank you!