Editor's note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
PARKERSBURG - The Retired Senior Volunteer Program, a United Way Alliance funding recipient, is a program for volunteers 55 and older to "Lead with Experience."
The RSVP is headquartered at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, at 531 Market St. in downtown Parkersburg.
Members of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, also known as RSVP, take part in a variety of volunteer and community projects throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Volunteers serve from four to 40 hours weekly, helping in their communities with many activities and services. They take their experience and go out into their communities to lend a helping hand. There are no restrictions on education or income guidelines. Volunteers that want to get out of the house, meet with other people and to feel useful, needed and appreciated will enjoy becoming part of the RSVP.
"The RSVP is so thankful for the funding we receive through the United Way campaign. It means so much to know that the United Way staff and their Board of Directors believe in the mission of the program," said RSVP program director Anne McFee.
"The financial support helps to keep our RSVP program going. Our RSVP Stitchers need new sewing machines and material to keep making the handmade items that are donated. The United Way Alliance gives us the opportunity to make people aware of our program through the agency fairs and during the campaign drive," she said.
RSVP covers a five-county area, including Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Roane and Wood. In Wood County there are now three RSVP stitchers groups, The RSVP Stitchers at the Wood County Senior Citizens Center, The Senior Stitchers at Parkland Place and the RSVP Stitchers at Vienna Baptist Church.
There are also stitchers who work from home. Among the many items they make include clothing protectors, walker and wheelchair bags, lap robes, crocheted hats and bandannas. Many items are delivered to area hospitals, nursing homes, Housecalls Hospice and to the cancer centers. Afghans and larger lap robes are delivered to the Veterans' Hospital in Clarksburg.
Items for children include clothing protectors, blankets and tote bags. Items are also made and sent to soldiers. Quilts were made for the Latrobe Street Mission in Parkersburg and a new quilt is given to new homeowners through Habitat for Humanity. The stitcher groups are always grateful for donations of material and sewing notions.
Volunteers help with changing batteries for Project Lifesaver through the Wood County Sheriff's Office. Meals are delivered for the Salvation Army and others help with blood drives through the Red Cross donor center on Dudley Avenue in Parkersburg.
Deanie Kendall volunteers each Friday at the donor center.
"I like volunteering and I like helping people. It gives me a reason to get up and get out. It makes me feel younger. I encourage my friends to get involved," she said, adding she also volunteers at the hospital and at special events like the Senior Expo.
Volunteers help at the West Virginia Welcome Center and at Henderson Hall in Williamstown. Henderson Hall volunteers include Don and Edith "Peg" Griffith. The couple volunteers at three to four station sites per month. They have been with RSVP for many years and started helping the Parkersburg Police Department at a substation in south Parkersburg before taking on other volunteer opportunities.
"Don and Peg are always there to lend a helping hand whenever needed," said McFee.
In Calhoun County, McFee said volunteers serve at the Senior Citizens center and have two volunteers that drive patients to the VA Hospital. Thrift shops help families in Calhoun County to provide great items at low cost to stretch the family budget. They are open three days a week and are staffed by volunteers only. The Family Resource Network Thrift store is in Grantsville and the Minnora Mission is in the Minnora/Orma area in the West Fork of Calhoun County.
There are many volunteers in every senior center in Jackson County. Volunteers can be found serving food and cleaning up in the kitchen. They help with activities such as exercise and ceramics. One volunteer teaches an eight-hour AARP Certified Driving Instruction course. Sewing volunteers make over 200 Pre-K Blankets for Jackson County students. Jackson General Hospital has volunteers in the ER, Surgical unit, the Front Desk and the Gift Shop. They donate monies made back into items needed for the hospital.
Pleasants County provides a much needed service in its county. The "Senior Lunch Club" provides meals each Wednesday at the senior center. Monies made go back into the community in the form of awards to different school and civic groups. Volunteers also have a prison project where they gather to wrap Christmas presents and make Easter baskets for the inmates to give to their children during visitation. The volunteers also collect paperback books and jigsaw puzzles for the inmates.
Roane County keeps its volunteers busy. The senior center has volunteers that provide time to the meal program, telephone reassurance and special activities. One volunteer takes veterans to the VA Hospital and provides not only a ride, but friendship during a time when the patient might be under stress due to illness. Many volunteers are part of the "Helping Hands" group who enjoy helping others. Roane County has a "Bee Hive Quilters" group that meets in the senior center. They work on quilts and sewing projects for those in the surrounding area and donate a new quilt to families who have lost their home in a fire. Roane General Hospital boasts a large group of faithful volunteers that serve every week.
RSVP is a part of Senior Corps, under the Center for National and Community Service. The mission of RSVP is to promote volunteerism among adults 55 and over, while encouraging them to use their life experience to meet the needs of others.