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RSVP has new director

By CHRISTIE BLECK

Journal Staff Writer

NEGAUNEE – Two weeks into her new position of director of Aging Services and Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Marquette County, Julie Shaw has some ideas on improving RSVP.

Shaw previously was community services director for the Superior Alliance of Independent Living, and prior to that, was director of the Forsyth Senior Center for 12 years.

“We match seniors who looking to volunteer in the community with individuals,” Shaw said of RSVP.

For example, Shaw spoke Thursday with a woman who, she said, will be a “friendly visitor” who will meet with seniors several times a week.

That volunteer, she pointed out, used to work at a long-term care facility.

“She knows what it’s like for people to be lonely,” Shaw said.

RSVP also provides transportation for seniors with medical appointments who typically would have difficulty traveling to their destinations.

Since RSVP covers all of Marquette County, that includes outlying areas such as Gwinn, Republic and Michigamme.

In fact, those areas are a particular focus of Shaw as she takes the helm.

“I really want to do some more of that outreach into those very rural areas, because I know that there’s a great need there,” Shaw said.

Those communities, she stressed, don’t have easy access to medical care.

“So, transportation is key for them to keep their health care, to stay healthy, to be able to stay in their homes longer,” Shaw said.

Rock, which is located about 45 miles from Marquette, is in RSVP territory.

“That’s our boundary, and so think about how far away that is,” Shaw said.

Still, RSVP helps a man who has to travel from Rock to the Marquette three times a week for dialysis.

“But we typically can only offer one ride a week because we have drivers that have to transport all over,” Shaw said, “so, you know, there’s a need for those other days, especially when somebody’s on dialysis. Who’s going to take three days a week? That’s a huge commitment.”

Transporting seniors, then, is an important duty handled by 43 transporters, who are reimbursed for trips related to medical needs, she said.

RSVP also on Thursday held Life Tracker training. A Life Tracker device, she explained, looks like a bracelet and is used to keep track of people like those affected by Alzheimer’s disease or a traumatic brain injury, and autistic children.

“So, if they go wandering, we can track them,” said Shaw, who pointed out RSVP has 50 Life Trackers but only about 20 are being used.

That’s another program she wants to expand, noting Life Tracker has a reputation of finding people within 20 minutes of the initial phone call.

That could be useful in various situations, such as when a woman became lost in Witch Lake near Republic in 2004. That woman, Shaw said, wasn’t found for two months.

It’s not just transportation in which volunteers are involved. Shaw said they help with the American Red Cross when there are fires, handing out blankets and the like, as well as in schools and for other organizations.

Volunteers must be age 55 or older. Anyone interested in volunteering for RSVP should contact Shaw, who works at the Marquette County Health Department building at 184 U.S. 41 East in Negaunee Township, at 906-315-2607 or jashaw@mqtco.org.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.