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RSVP: You’re Invited to Volunteer

Holiday helping at home and away

The urge to help less fortunate people surges as the holidays approach. Most nonprofits, particularly those involved in food security, see an unmanageable swell in offers to assist from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Calls from potential volunteers who want to feel good about helping others could triple. Organizations often cannot accommodate those wanting to serve holiday meals, visit seniors who are homebound, and deliver Meals on Wheels for a day or two. Currie Teoh, Volunteer Director for Manna on Main Street, commented, “I really wish I could bottle up this energy and tap into it at those [after holiday] times.” 

Service organizations depend on volunteers throughout the year, and RSVP of the Pioneer Valley matches volunteers who can make commitments lasting well beyond the holidays. A November 2017 article in The Huffington Post by Eleanor Goldberg stated that “nonprofits really need help when volunteer numbers dry up after New Year’s.” Shortages occur in December and January when college students are on semester break and retirees hasten to warm weather retreats. Extra volunteers are needed then to answer phones, drive seniors to medical appointments, pack and deliver meals, stock food pantries, help  seniors who are homebound to pay bills, lead exercise classes, and more.

We encourage our RSVP volunteers to make ongoing commitments, and for our volunteers who winter away, we will connect you to RSVP programs in that area. But if you only have a bit of time, some ideas for holiday episodic volunteering include gathering a group for a singalong at a local veterans home, offering to serve and eat a meal with residents of a nursing home, or taking a shift to ring the bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive.

If you want to make a difference in your community and have a few hours to regularly share your talent and experience, you are needed. Contact me, Pat Sicard, volunteer manager, RSVP of the Pioneer Valley, at 413-387-4558 x1 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. today.

Winter is coming

Ginger RSVPGinger ElliotWinter is coming (and we’re not just talking about the final season of Game of Thrones!).

The days are getting shorter and temperatures are falling. The prospect of upcoming holidays and family obligations may have you feeling melancholy or stressed. Then, after the holidays are finally over, we can look forward to… at least ten more weeks of winter! As the saying goes, summer flies and winter walks.

How to deal with the winter blahs?

In Norway, where winters are even longer, there is a word, “koselig,” which describes a state of being warm and cozy. We can embrace the opportunities for “koselig” that winter brings: long nights for sleeping under extra blankets; the delicious smells of savory soups and stews; a tempting pile of books; time to catch up with a favorite television series. Finding things that we enjoy about this time of year can help us get through the parts that simply have to be endured.

Photo of Joy and RobertRobert Amyot, a volunteer Ombudsman with LifePath, enjoys a conversation with Joy Page, a resident of Poet's Seat Health Care Center. Each week, Ombudsman volunteers visit the residents of their assigned nursing or rest home. They spend just a couple of hours there, hearing resident’s concerns, advocating for their rights, and helping resolve their complaints, but their dedication makes a big difference in the lives of the residents.Once you make sure that you are getting your daily allotment of “koselig,” it is time to get out of the house! Regular physical and mental activity is also important in fighting off the blahs. This could be the time to join that book group, sign up for a class, try yoga, swim laps at the community pool, walk at the mall, or learn to snowshoe. There are added benefits if the activity is new to you and/or if you do it with others.

Volunteering is a great way to get out of the house, try something you haven’t tried before, and meet new people. RSVP of the Pioneer Valley has over 300 volunteer positions in towns and cities throughout Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties, and we will help you find the one that is just right for you. You will, however, need to find your own winter “koselig”!

To begin your volunteering adventure before winter gets underway, contact Pat Sicard, RSVP of the Pioneer Valley volunteer manager, by phone at 413-387-4558 x1 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Volunteering improves brain function and boosts happiness

Volunteers make a world of difference in the lives of those they serve, and giving back also benefits the volunteer. According to the AARP at www.createthegood.org, benefits of volunteering for older adults can include lowering stress, finding new friends and social opportunities, gaining confidence and a continued sense of purpose. Aren’t you more interesting company when you have something to talk about?

April 2018 Volunteers to be thanked in The Good Life photo WEBLifePath offers many opportunities to volunteer. Shown here, Rides for Health Volunteer Driver Steve McKnight helps Martha Shibilo to her car. Martha says that without Steve, "I don't know what I’d do. I really don't know what I'd do. I just call him and ask him if he can pick me up at a certain time, and he's right there. Hasn't refused me yet,” she laughs.“Brain Benefits for Seniors Who Volunteer,” a 2009 study by Johns Hopkins University, revealed that “volunteering increases brain functioning because activity gets you moving and thinking at the same time.” Volunteers also experience “The Happiness Effect,” which is similar to the aftermath of a vigorous workout. That feeling of happiness and well-being comes from a release of dopamine in the brain, and helping others has that exact same effect. The more you volunteer, the happier you become!

So, as the song says, “Don’t worry, be happy,” and use those extra hours in your weekly schedule for good. Share your skills and experience to benefit local nonprofits, make new friends, or help an organization that has helped you. RSVP of the Pioneer Valley is the volunteer connector for adults 55 and older who have some time and wish to help food banks, meals programs, thrift shops, or give elders who are homebound  some companionship or rides to medical appointments. RSVP offers options, you choose, and we facilitate the match.

Want more suggestions to challenge your interests and skills? Contact me, RSVP Volunteer Manager Pat Sicard, now This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 413-387-4558 x1.  

Why volunteering is a perfect fit for people over 55

The years after 55 can become the best time in life if we let go of old roles that no longer fit us, seek out new experiences, and discover a renewed sense of purpose. Many of us are free from full-time work obligations and family responsibilities. We might have more freedom now than we have ever experienced. Most of us are still in good health and have a desire to be productive. We may find that we are searching for a deeper meaning in life, and volunteering can become an important part of this process.

RSVP of the Pioneer Valley partners with close to 60 nonprofit agencies, where we have placed more than 600 volunteers. Our community has many needs, and the opportunities to help are numerous and varied. We can help you find a placement that speaks to you and brings you satisfaction. Begin a creative endeavor, pursue a never-realized dream, connect in a closer way to your community. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you don’t like it, we will work with you to find something else!

When you volunteer, you are not only helping others but also helping yourself. Volunteering helps to connect us with others. It presents an opportunity to learn new skills and experience different viewpoints. For some, it may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. There are also physical benefits, as studies have shown that those who volunteer tend to have lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.

To begin your volunteering adventure, contact Pat Sicard, RSVP of the Pioneer Valley volunteer manager, by phone at 413-387-4558 x1 or send her an email.

The many benefits of being a volunteer with RVSP

RSVP of the Pioneer Valley is the volunteer center for people age 55 and over in the Pioneer Valley. Since 1973, we have provided individualized attention, matching volunteer interests, skills, experience and availability with the needs of area nonprofits. Currently, 640 RSVP volunteers serve at 57 volunteer sites in Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden County. New volunteers are referred to RSVP most often by satisfied current volunteers.

RSVP is a good choice for both volunteers and nonprofits, offering benefits beyond the expert matching services that create long-term satisfaction. RSVP’s successful connections have resulted in a 91% volunteer retention rate of one year or more. RSVP has over 300 volunteer positions in towns and cities throughout Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties that can accommodate most interests. RSVP staff members also share their volunteer management knowledge through workshops, presentations, and one-on-one mentorship of volunteer managers, increasing the region’s capacity to support volunteer programs. RSVP’s site partners benefit from many volunteers specializing in marketing, strategic planning, data management and more, who act as short-term consultants.

In addition to enjoying a personal connection to RSVP staff, volunteers receive news of events, sites, and opportunities each month through RSVP’s electronic newsletter. Volunteers who travel in order to volunteer may request mileage reimbursement of up to $15 per month. All volunteers are covered by supplemental general liability insurance that is free to them. Volunteers who serve 50 or more hours each year are invited to the Log Cabin in Holyoke each September for the Volunteer Recognition Luncheon to enjoy an exceptional meal, President’s Awards, a remarkable raffle, and the good company of other volunteers.

To get started as an RSVP volunteer, contact Pat Sicard, RSVP volunteer manager, at 413-387-4558 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..