‘Forever friendship’

Marquette County RSVP offers diverse volunteer opportunities for retired seniors

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program offers many volunteering opportunites for retired seniors. Pictured, RSVP volunteer, Chris, back, provides a friendly visit with Bethene through RSVP’s Heart-to-Heart Peer Visitor program. The two women have formed a close friendship through their visits, which include games, hugs and lots of laughter. This is just one example of how volunteering can benefit community and volunteer alike. (Courtesy photo from Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Marquette’s Aging Services)

MARQUETTE — Retirees who wish to offer their time, wisdom and talents to the community are in luck — Marquette County’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program can help retirees find a volunteer position at nonprofit and health institutions across Marquette County.

RSVP is structured around “providing positive volunteer experiences for people after they’ve retired,” said Julie Shaw, director of RSVP and Marquette County’s Aging Services Department.

The program offers a wide variety of volunteering experiences to seniors who are “55 years or better” throughout Marquette County — there are currently 256 volunteers at 56 different agencies throughout the community.

“(We are) very fortunate that seniors want to fill the needs in the community,” Shaw said.

Volunteering through RVSP is often a “win-win” situation, Shaw said — the volunteers can help their community by offering their time, talent and wisdom, and the volunteers also benefit by getting involved with their community, learning new skills and meeting new people.

One example Shaw shared is the story of Chris and Bethene, who were matched in RSVP’s Heart to Heart Peer Visitor program.

Chris, an RSVP volunteer and retired nurse visits Bethene weekly. Through the visits, the two women have formed a “forever friendship,” Shaw said.

Chris transports Bethene to doctor appointments, but the relationship has grown to be much more than that for both women. During Chris’s weekly visits to Bethene, the two play cards, laugh and hug. “Their time together is the greatest gift one person can give to another,” Shaw noted in a story about the two women.

This is just one example of the many different areas and programs that RSVP volunteers can work in.

Those who wish to volunteer can state their interest in particular categories — such as education, crafts, sports, public safety or entertainment — when they fill out the initial paperwork to become an RSVP volunteer. That gives Shaw an idea about what might be a good fit for a given individual.

Shaw said she often sits down with people who are interested in volunteering over a cup of coffee to talk about their background, skills and interests to find them a position within the community they might enjoy.

For example, Shaw said that retired teachers may enjoy opportunities to work with children in educational settings, while those who want to spend time with animals could enjoy an assignment at the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter.

In addition to placing volunteers at different agencies across the county, RSVP also offers volunteer opportunities in a number of specific RSVP-run programs.

Some programs offered include: the Veteran’s History project, where volunteers conduct and transcribe recorded interviews with local veterans; RSVP Transporters, who provide transportation to non-emergency medical appointments for seniors; and RSVP Crafters, who sew, knit and crochet items to be donated to local nonprofits and Triad of Marquette County, which provides a platform for seniors to work with area law enforcement.

Shaw said the Triad group, which meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at the RSVP office in the Marquette County Health Department, is currently seeking new volunteers.

“(Triad is) a collaboration of local law enforcement with seniors to keep seniors safe in their communities (and) make them comfortable turning to law enforcement if they need them,” Shaw said.

Triad of Marquette County has worked with law enforcement to initiate several programs in the community. Examples include an emergency preparedness program with a focus on seniors, as well as the Project Life Tracker service, which can help locate individuals who may be at risk of wandering by providing them with a wristband containing a transmitter.

Shaw highlighted another RSVP program that is in need of volunteers: the Heart-to-Heart Card-making Club.

“They make cards for local homebound people who might just need to be remembered,” Shaw said. “(It’s) just a really fun heartwarming project that I love.”

The club helps volunteers keep the art of hand-written and handmade cards alive, a time-honored tradition that many value.

The club meets the fourth Friday of each month at the Marquette County Health Department, located at 184 U.S. 41 East in Negaunee.

In addition to ongoing volunteer placements, RSVP also offers volunteer opportunities for one-time projects and events.

Shaw said they are currently seeking volunteers to do food preparation and help with registration for the community-wide baby shower event that will be held at 1 p.m. April 13 at the Northiron Church in Ishpeming.

Through big and small projects alike, all of the volunteering adds up. In 2017 alone, RSVP volunteers worked 45,503 service hours at various agencies throughout Marquette County. Shaw said the work of volunteers has an estimated value of over $24 an hour — this means that the 45,503 hours worked provided a value of more than $1.098 million to Marquette County in 2017.

Those interested in learning more about volunteering through RSVP can call 906-315-2607, or visit www.co.marquette.mi.us/departments/aging_servicesrsvp_(retired_senior_volunteer_program).php#.WqlCJ4VhtMs