Enlisting our elders

RSVP of Marquette County holds open house to introduce new director, inform community about volunteer opportunities

Inspirational quotes are paired with quotes about the Retired Senior Volunteer Program on tables at an open house hosted by RSVP Feb. 20. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — The Retired Senior Volunteer Program held an open house event Feb. 20 to allow current and prospective volunteers to meet the program’s new director, Mary Harris.

Attendees of the open house got a chance to chat with Harris and others involved with the program while enjoying refreshments and learning more about RSVP.

“Part of it is just introducing myself to people in the community in my new role; there’s over 200 volunteers already in the program that haven’t met me yet,” Harris said. “And then also getting information out to individuals in the community who may be interested but don’t know much about the program.”

Harris is a social worker who has worked for Marquette County in the past, and was drawn to the RSVP director position due to her passion for working with the community, she said.

“I just love working with volunteers and this is a great population of folks to work with,” she said.

A logo for RSVP’s Senior Corps is pictured. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

RSVP offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities for seniors 55 and older in Marquette County, Harris said.

With 50 volunteer sites throughout the community, there’s an RSVP placement for people of all interests and abilities, she said.

“We have so many opportunities for folks to get involved in the community that we can fit the opportunity to their lifestyle,” Harris said.

Brochures, posters and displays set up at the open house highlighted the diverse activities of RSVP volunteers, who have helped with projects like interviewing local veterans to preserve their stories, spreading joy through handmade cards and participating in TRIAD, which partners local seniors with law enforcement officials.

Furthermore, the diverse array of RSVP positions offer volunteer opportunities that can be done in a person’s community or from within a person’s home, she said.

Mary Harris, RSVP’s new director, at right, smiles as she chats with attendees of RSVP’s open house Feb. 20. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

“There are things that people can do at home, as well as 50 stations throughout Marquette County that have their own opportunities,” Harris said. “So we can always find a good fit.”

There are many things that can be done right from a person’s home that impact the greater community, Harris said.

“For folks who are homebound, we have many things they can do at home as part of our program,” Harris explained. “We have folks that sew walker bags for us to give to other folks that have just come out of surgery, or catheter covers. We have a community baby shower that we participate in and people who are homebound are able to knit and sew baby clothes and blankets and donate it to families in need throughout the county.”

Other examples of RSVP volunteer opportunities can be found with the Heart to Heart Peer Visitor volunteers, who are matched with homebound seniors and visit with them on a regular basis; Project LifeTracker; Habitat for Humanity; local schools and senior centers; RSVP transporters; and more.

For those who enjoy driving and want to lend a hand to local seniors, Harris and Jeff Selesky, a transporter and a member of the RSVP advisory board, emphasized that RSVP needs volunteer non-emergency medical transporters, especially during the winter season.

File of Life packets provided through Marquette County TRIAD and RSVP are displayed on a table at an open house hosted by RSVP Feb. 20. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

“We’re always in need of transporters, any senior age 55 or older can call the RSVP office and fill out an application,” Selesky said. “It’s very easy to do. They have to have dependable transportation and they can get on board.”

The volunteer position offers a flexible schedule, he said, noting that transporters usually receive about a week’s notice prior to transporting a person and that they can tailor their hours and schedule to fit their lifestyle.

“As a non-emergency medical transporter, our function is to transport seniors to medical appointments and that could be doctor or dental, anything along the medical line,” Selesky said. “And our job is to pick them up, get them to their appointments on time and get them back home safely.”

Selesky, who has served as an RSVP transporter for four years, said the work comes with many rewards.

“Sometimes it goes a little farther than just the transportation,” he said. “Sometimes we’re the only social contact they have when we pick them up. It’s kind of gratifying because you feel like they want somebody to talk to or listen to, and it gets very, very special … and quite frankly, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s just very rewarding.”

A quote from a person who has benefitted from RSVP’s non-emergency medical transporter program is pictured at an open house hosted by RSVP Feb. 20. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

Interested parties can call the RSVP office at 906-315-2607, visit RSVP’s website, or drop into the office for more information on how to become a volunteer.

RSVP’s website can be accessed at https://bit.ly/2ty1W86 .

RSVP’s office is in the lower level of the Marquette County Health Department building, which is located at 84 U.S. 41 East in Negaunee.

Inspirational quotes are paired with quotes about the Retired Senior Volunteer Program on tables at an open house hosted by RSVP Feb. 20. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)