Highlights » Lifestyle » Vol. 46

RSVP to volunteer opportunities

RSVPRita Kangaroo (2)Volunteering and giving one’s time to help others is as American as baseball and apple pie. The spirit of reaching out and extending ourselves for the greater good is ingrained in us, and it is a thread that runs deeply through the fabric of the American culture. We are a society that cares for, and looks after, each other. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Worcester stands as a tangible proof of this core American value.

Launched nationally in 1971, RSVP helps to meet the needs of communities that are working with limited resources while assisting senior citizens in remaining active, productive and physically and mentally healthy. RSVP is designed to enlist senior citizens, age 55 and older, in positions of community service wherever they can be helpful and coordinates local senior volunteers to help nonprofit agencies. And helpful they are, for what is crystal clear is that these volunteers are indeed angels among us. They make a positive difference in the lives of others without asking for anything in return.

Our nation is on the cusp of one of the most dramatic and sweeping demographic shifts in our history. Projections show that a staggering 72 million people will be 65 or older by the year 2030. Think about it: That’s only 15 years from now. As it stands today, baby boomers are turning 60 at the mind-boggling rate of 250,000 people per month. The ranks of America’s senior citizens are swelling rapidly.

For many people, the reality of the “golden years” is so distant from the cozy image of tanned golf cart-driving seniors heading to lunch at the country club along Florida’s Gulf Coast. For most people, aging is a complex – sometimes frightening – journey into the unknown. The encouraging news is that there is some light to be found, and it comes in the form of senior volunteers like RSVP-Worcester’s Rita Sullivan, who lights a candle that makes the darkness retreat a bit.

RSVPBarbara, Kathy, Rita (2)Sullivan, the proud mother of a physician, was born and raised in Fall River and has lived in Millbury since 1968. She is that special senior who dedicates herself to helping other seniors who are in need of a friendly face, a warm smile and a helping hand. In speaking with her about her RSVP work, the enthusiasm in her voice is palpable, as her volunteering is much more a labor of love than it is work. Of her mission she said, “My key role is to help fill the volunteer needs at over 70 nonprofits where RSVP places volunteers. We connect people with opportunities to serve.” A key personal goal for Sullivan is “to make a real difference locally and to assist nonprofits by going to senior centers and talking to people and trying to make them more savvy. You can’t replace what volunteers lend to an organization, and the more you give, the more you get.”

This genuine passion to help others percolates to the surface when Sullivan speaks, as she has the eyes to see the need and the will to make a difference. “Every senior has a story to tell, and you find all kinds of people here. You have retired engineers, former doctors and police officers.” Sullivan added that “RSVP is a one-stop shopping connector organization that helps adults who are at least 55 years young find worthwhile volunteer opportunities throughout Worcester county.”

Sullivan’s advice to those who might consider volunteering their own time is: “Do it! Enjoy all the health benefits that come with serving. I can personally tell you that you feel better when you are making a difference.”

For more information, call (508) 791-RSVP, email info@rsvpworcester.org or visit rsvpworcester.org.

Paul Collins is a freelance writer from Southborough.

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