Happy National Volunteer Month! What a great time to reach out and say THANK YOU to everyone who takes the time to volunteer, especially to the nearly 200 dedicated individuals who serve with our Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). As the Director of Volunteer Services here at Family & Children’s Service (FCS), I am privileged to partner with our RSVP volunteers to deliver programs and services that have a lasting impact in our community. Established in 1971, RSVP is one of three federally-funded Senior Corps programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that leverage the skills and experience of individuals 55 and older to meet the critical needs of the community. FCS is the designated RSVP provider for Monmouth County, and as such, engages nearly 200 volunteers in a variety of agency-led community-based programs. These include: Reading Buddies, an in-school reading program designed to promote early childhood literacy; Healthy Buddies, a school-based curriculum aimed at developing healthy eating habits in at-risk student populations and the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), a program which counsels eligible Medicare recipients about their enrollment options. Our RSVP volunteers’ contributions of time, talent and resources enable us to fulfill Put simply, we couldn’t do it without them.
Volunteering has many benefits. It’s good for the economy. According to a recent report by the CNCS, 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. Based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour, the yearly economic benefit of this service to the nation is valued at nearly $184 billion.
Volunteering is also good for your health! A growing body of research points to mental and physical health benefits associated with volunteering, including lower mortality rates, increased strength and energy, decreased rates of depression, and fewer physical limitations. We see it within our own agency. Many of our RSVP volunteers are 80-years-old or older. Our oldest RSVP volunteer, Harry Scher, is 96 and still drives himself to the library once a week to counsel people through our SHIP program. Four of our Reading Buddies volunteers have been volunteering together at the same school for 17 years. The friendships the formed are invaluable. They even have lunch together during the summer months when school is closed.
Seniors have been making a powerful impact in our communities for decades, and their service is more important than ever. With nearly one in every five Americans projected to be age 60 or older by 2030, we need to engage seniors in volunteer service to meet critical community needs. If you are interested in volunteer service, contact our office today, or sign up to volunteer online. And to our RSVP volunteers who help make our community a better place for all of us to live, we say, Thank You!
Samantha White is Director of Volunteer Services at FCS