RSVP annual banquet honors seniors service to community
MARQUETTE — Volunteers give thousands of hours to the community each and every year, helping with everything from bake sales to emergency response efforts.
To recognize the contributions of Marquette County’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP, volunteers, the 29th annual volunteer recognition banquet was held by RSVP on Sept. 18 at Marquette’s Holiday Inn.
“A lot of our volunteers are silent givers. They put so many hours into what they do in the community and they don’t look for recognition,” RSVP Director Mary Harris said. “So we want to celebrate all the work that they do and give them an opportunity to also bond with the other folks that are giving in the community.”
Nearly 200 people — including volunteers, family, friends and Marquette County officials — were in attendance to enjoy a social hour, music by the Marquette Ukelele Group, dinner, dessert and the awards ceremony, which honored all RSVP volunteers, as well as those who reached certain milestones.
“We are recognizing anniversaries. Some of our volunteers have been with us for 25 years and we like to celebrate the time they have donated to our community,” Harris said. “We also celebrate when someone reaches what we call the lifetime achievement, which is 4,000 hours of donated time to our community.”
RSVP volunteer James Shelly was honored at the ceremony with a Lifetime Achievement Award that recognized Shelly’s 4,000-plus hours of service since he joined RSVP in 2006. Shelly has volunteered with UP Health System – Marquette, RSVP’s non-emergency medical transportation program, the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, the Forsyth Township Senior Center, and the Gwinn Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, organizers said.
His role at UPHS even began before his tenure with RSVP, Janice Marchant of UP Health System said, as he began volunteering with the hospital in November 1997.
“He has over 5,000 hours helping families and patients navigate the halls of the hospital. Navigating at the old facility was no easy task. With buildings on both sides of the road and floors not connecting or going from 3rd to 1st floor all in a matter of seconds made it difficult to master. But Jim always has a kind word and a smile on his face which makes the families and patients at ease,” Marchant said in a letter. “The hospital also has NMU Pre-med students that volunteer at the hospital and they enjoy being Jim’s partner. He always shares stories about being in the Air Force working on radio and electronics or his latest fishing catch. I’ve had students ask when they return in the fall ‘where is Jim’ so they can go chat with him. I feel very fortunate to have Jim as a volunteer. He fills in 2 times per week at our Main Entrance Lobby still with kind words and a smile.”
Two other RSVP volunteers, Kay Leduc and Mary Amelia Yvonne Clark, were recognized for their 25 years of service at the ceremony.
Leduc, who joined RSVP in September 1994, and has volunteered at the YMCA, UP Health System – Marquette, the Salvation Army, Peter White Public Library, the Beacon House and the American Red Cross.
She’s also assisted at a wide variety of events, such as Blood pressure clinics, garden tours, book fairs, food fest cleanups, bike races, and “fundraisers for nearly every good cause,” organizers said.
“Kay is a Marquette local who has been giving back to her community since day 1,” RSVP officials said. “We are so grateful to have her on our RSVP team, celebrating 25 years of service.”
Clark also joined RSVP in 1994 and has “dedicated her volunteer work to initiatives that focus on safety for aging adults” since then, organizers said. Clark has worked with local police departments, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office to organize the Life Tracker Program and National Night Out events throughout Marquette County. Clark also served as a member of a community emergency response group and has been a lifelong volunteer for Red Cross, serving on their Disaster Assistance Team.
Susan Vercoe was also recognized for 13 years of service to the organization with a presentation of a framed certificate at the ceremony, organizers said.
For those who wish to get involved, Harris emphasized that RSVP offers many opportunities for those 55 and older to volunteer throughout Marquette County, as volunteers are matched with opportunities that align with their specific interests, skills and schedules.
One program that’s currently in need of volunteers is the Life Tracker program, which gives individuals who may be at risk of wandering — such as those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia — a battery-powered bracelet that emits a specific radio frequency. When an individual wears this bracelet, the radio frequency can be used to determine their location.
“We work with local EMS, so when someone is reported missing, they go out and look for the signals from our trackers,” Harris said.
Specifically, volunteers are needed to help maintain and check the batteries of the Life Tracker bracelets worn by individuals throughout the county, Harris said.
“It’s a small commitment, once a month that we visit clients and check their batteries,” Harris said. “But it makes a huge impact and the families feel so much safer knowing that they can find their loved one. “
For more information on RSVP and how to get involved, call 906-315-2658 or 906-315-2607, or visit www.co.marquette.mi.us/departments/aging_services/rsvp_(retired_senior_volunteer_program).php#.W74QHIVht9g.
Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.