- Written by Pat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager for Hampshire and Franklin counties
- Published: January 22, 2021
Since 1973, RSVP, the volunteer connection for people 55 and over in the Pioneer Valley, has helped people share skills and create networks. Over 600 inspired volunteers were serving 65 volunteer sites when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now with many sites closed to in-person activity, RSVP and its volunteers have become more inventive.
Online support, email, and phone contact is more common now than the face-to-face interaction that is a vital part of RSVP, but three focus areas for service remain in place: helping seniors to age in place, food security, and capacity building. As we look forward to returning to in-person options, the individual approach to volunteering remains part of RSVP operations as much as possible.
Over 600 inspired volunteers were serving 65 volunteer sites when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Providing support online or via masks and social distance in person, volunteers assist Meals on Wheels, food pantries, SHINE and the VITA Tax Program. Many RSVP volunteers are also strengthening skills or learning new ones as they virtually mentor or provide organizations with computer and technical assistance. They lead exercise classes and social groups virtually, and participate in virtual fund-raising campaigns such as Monte’s March or the Meals on Wheels Walkathon.
Volunteers always benefit from feeling needed and helping the community, but now many RSVP volunteers are using this role to augment skills, connect to potential jobs, and find new networking avenues to paid employment. One RSVP volunteer, Carol K., supplies data support for a LifePath program, which was a springboard to employment at a local senior center. RSVP staff’s personal approach to aid volunteers in reaching their goals may also include an assist toward employment opportunities.