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RSVP: You’re Invited to Volunteer

Pat Sicard, Volunteer Manager, RSVP of the Pioneer ValleyPat Sicard, Volunteer Manager, RSVP of the Pioneer ValleyMedicare changes and requirements can be confusing, especially in the fall Open Enrollment period. But you can relax because there is a free, unbiased, LifePath program to help you. SHINE, which stands for “Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone (with Medicare),” uses trained volunteers to discreetly meet with Medicare recipients, answer questions, and provide education to support decisions. Serving 54 towns covered by LifePath and Highland Valley Elder Services, the 42 SHINE volunteers go through an extensive training program and also attend regular monthly informational meetings to ensure the most up-to-date information to use when working with their clients on Medicare.

If the prospect of learning Medicare information and volunteering to help others appeals to you, you are needed now to train and help in the North Quabbin, Westfield, and Northampton areas. 

If the prospect of learning Medicare information and volunteering to help others appeals to you, you are needed now to train and help in the North Quabbin, Westfield, and Northampton areas. Lorraine York-Edberg, LifePath’s SHINE Director, explained that potential volunteers must have a clean CORI and attend all 14 days of training. “Volunteers must be at ease with using a computer and the internet as well as Zoom, a camera and a microphone,” says York-Edberg.  In these days of COVID caution, training and client contact is mostly online, although it can be a mix of phone, internet, and in-person delivery. 

The spring SHINE training will be held starting in April, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a break from 12 to 1 p.m. You need not have experience with insurance to be a SHINE volunteer, but a willingness to learn and provide important education to Medicare recipients is essential. Imparting the technical knowledge with a reassuring and warm personal style is always a bonus for clients. 

For more information about SHINE and other exciting volunteer opportunities at LifePath, contact Pat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager, 413-387-1286, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pat Sicard, Volunteer Manager, RSVP of the Pioneer ValleyPat Sicard, Volunteer Manager, RSVP of the Pioneer ValleyIn July 2019, I wrote that volunteering was important for retirees, for the community, and for local organizations. Today, over two years later, it is still as important but also a bit more challenging. COVID-19 protocols of masks, vaccinations, distancing, hand washing, sanitizing, Zoom, and more, have added layers of procedures and policies to area nonprofits, their staff members, and programs. Often, organizations could not add staff to meet the new demands, thus volunteers stepped up to fill in gaps. By answering phones, filing paperwork, entering data, and addressing food insecurity by delivering meals, helping pantries and food banks, and providing food bags in curbside settings, volunteers kept things going. This need for volunteers just keeps growing.

This need for volunteers just keeps growing.

Two years ago, I mentioned that starting as early as age 55, some people are freed from work obligations and family responsibilities, have more flexible time, are in good health, and want to still be useful. Today, in this “I can’t believe COVID-19 is still around” phase, volunteering continues to give great purpose and opportunities to be productive after retirement. Although the many added COVID-19 protocols can be challenging, the opportunities to help are numerous and varied. In addition to those listed above, a few more examples include helping homebound elders with finances as a Money Manager, driving an elder without transportation to a physician’s visit, visiting the grocery store for an elder, and providing Meals on Wheels to elders who need help with meals.  

RSVP of the Pioneer Valley’s 600 volunteers support more than 60 nonprofit agencies in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties. Let us help you to try something new today. Also, helping others also helps you to be engaged, meet new friends, and be healthier—recent studies conclude that adults who volunteer tend to have lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. 

Help yourself while helping others. Contact Pat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 413-387-1286. Contact Ginger Elliott, RSVP Volunteer Coordinator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 413-387-1296.

Pat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager for Hampshire and Franklin countiesPat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager for Hampshire and Franklin countiesAs we emerge from the concern and confinement of the COVID pandemic, I have been reflecting on the resilience of our elder population, the dedication of our RSVP volunteers, and the need for volunteers in key areas today that are similar to the needs we faced a year ago. 

In March of 2020 LifePath faced a crucial shortage of Meals on Wheels drivers, and today the need is still critical.

In March of 2020 LifePath faced a crucial shortage of Meals on Wheels drivers, and today the need is still critical. Volunteers can make a definite impact on the quality of life for area elders by delivering a daily nutritious meal and performing a wellness check. 

In June and July of 2020, RSVP volunteers dealt with the big lemon of the COVID pandemic by helping LifePath consumers with drive-up meal deliveries, assembling Meals on Wheels, and giving online support to Money Management clients. Today, home delivered meal packers and Money Managers are still needed more than ever, and RSVP is recruiting volunteers with skills in finance or bill paying to help area elders stay independent in their own homes. 

Last fall, LifePath’s Benefits Counseling Program needed volunteers. Designed to enhance the financial security of adults 60 and older and people with disabilities of any age, it offers a variety of supports to keep people independent. The program and its volunteers provide access to benefits and increased home energy efficiency to help people stay in their own homes for as long as possible. 

Benefits Counseling volunteers assist with SNAP (food stamps) and fuel assistance applications, along with referrals to other agencies for assistance with home repair and home modifications. Assistance can lead to possible energy discounts, rebates on appliances, weatherization, and energy audits of homes. Community Action’s VITA free tax preparation program, Fuel Assistance Program, and Energy Programs work hand-in-hand with LifePath’s programs to ensure independence and wellness in our elder population.  

Quoting Energize, Inc. CEO Dr. Susan J. Ellis, "Volunteering offers a chance to feel good‌‌ and‌ help those in need." The need for volunteers in key LifePath programs is as critical today as it was over a year ago. If you are 55 or older, and have some time, experience, and interest to give to your community, you can feel good by helping those in need. Contact Pat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager for Hampshire and Franklin counties, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 413-387-1286 or Ginger Elliott, RSVP Volunteer Coordinator for Hampden County, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 413-387-1296, to get started today.

Pat Sicard, Volunteer Manager, RSVP of the Pioneer ValleyPat Sicard, Volunteer Manager, RSVP of the Pioneer ValleyOne year ago, I wrote about making lemonade from the lemons dealt to all of us in the form of COVID-19. It disrupted our lives in so many ways, but with more people vaccinated, we are turning the connection corner. Through it all I have been impressed and thankful that our RSVP volunteers remained engaged in their communities and kept safe while doing whatever they could to support our area nonprofits. Many phone calls were made, Zoom sessions launched, and masks fashioned and donated. Food bags were filled and distributed in socially-distanced settings, and tech support was offered.

If you are ready for the satisfaction of using your time, talent, creativity, and experience to make a difference, then you are needed.

Now, RSVP volunteers are ready to get back to more direct service and are available to provide needed volunteer support to agencies and programs reopening their offices. Just a few immediate needs include volunteers for LifePath’s Money Management program to keep clients’ bills paid. This support toward the financial well-being of consumers secures their independence at home. The Ombudsman program trains volunteers to ensure that the needs and rights of elders in long-term care facilities are being met. Rides for Health drivers are crucial to enabling homebound elders to access medical appointments, while Phone Pal volunteers provide critical social support to elders who have been isolated from activities, friends, and families.

These examples, plus many other types of volunteer opportunities, are available at LifePath and many other agencies in the areas served by RSVP volunteers. As we reopen, important and interesting ways to help people in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden County communities will resurface or be designed anew. If you are ready for the satisfaction of using your time, talent, creativity, and experience to make a difference, then you are needed.

RSVP is ready to connect you to great opportunities. Contact Pat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager for Hampshire and Franklin counties, at 413-387-1286 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For Hampden county opportunities, contact Ginger Elliott, Volunteer Coordinator for Hampden County, at 413-387-1296 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Enjoy the lemonade!

Pat Sicard, Volunteer Manager, RSVP of the Pioneer ValleyPat Sicard, Volunteer Manager, RSVP of the Pioneer ValleyOver a year ago I met with a potential RSVP volunteer at the Northfield Senior Center. A retired mail carrier, he had some time, liked to drive, and wanted to do something important for his community. Gary started delivering over 20 Meals on Wheels per trip to area homebound elders without missing a beat. Due to COVID-19, program changes had to be made to the face-to-face delivery system, and it became a smile and wave process. But despite the changes, Gary’s easy smile, friendly manner, and ability to deliver on time has made the difference in the well being, health, and comfort of his clients, who look forward to his visits.

Gary started delivering over 20 Meals on Wheels per trip to area homebound elders without missing a beat.

Gary said, "I got to know people and their needs. One 93-year-old living alone loves sports and we talk about that and her childhood when she comes to the door. I love to be busy, and this gets me out of the house. I am happy to do it and will continue.” 

Many other RSVP volunteers, like Gary, are ensuring that homebound elders in Western Massachusetts are getting daily good nutrition with a friendly hello and a wave.  If you are interested in volunteering to support the Meals on Wheels program or other nutrition distribution programs, contact Pat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager for Hampshire and Franklin Counties, at 413-387-1286 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;  or contact Ginger Elliott, Volunteer Coordinator for Hampden County, at 413-387-1296 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..