Written by Betsy Abraham, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 07 August 2013 15:22
Fred and Elaine Anderson may be retired but they are as busy as ever. The Hicksville couple spends time each week volunteering at various organizations across Long Island, including Old Bethpage Village Restoration, Long Island Blood Services and the Nassau County Department of Social Services. They found about about these opportunities through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a nationwide program that connects seniors, 55 and over, with volunteer service organizations in their community. The program used to be run by the Nassau County Office for the Aging, but was dropped a few years ago.
Now, the Nassau County chapter of RSVP is run by FEGS Health and Human Services, a Syosset-based non-profit founded in 1934 by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. FEGS was awarded a $100,000 grant for RSVP in April, and since then has placed over 175 local volunteers with different organizations including the American Red Cross, Long Island Blood Services, the Oyster Bay and Westbury Senior Centers, Catholic Charities, Mary Brennan Interfaith Nutrition Network, and area hospitals.
Mindy Fischer, in charge of placement for RSVP, says she tries to match each volunteer’s interests with a local need. If a volunteer is placed in a service assignment he or she doesn’t like, it is possible to request a new assignment.
“It’s a great opportunity for seniors to dabble in things,” Fischer said.
Volunteers engage in a myriad of activities, such as visiting homebound seniors, serving food at soup kitchens or aiding in hurricane relief. Less conventional volunteer opportunities, include educating people on health insurance or growing vegetables for a food pantry.
“It’s unique in that there’s a lot of different opportunities. If someone doesn’t know what they want to do, we can offer them a menu of opportunities,” Fischer said, “many times ones that they didn’t even know exist.”
Fred has been partnered with RSVP for nine years. He had already been volunteering at his church, and was looking for other ways to give back.
“You get self-satisfaction out of helping other people. I enjoy helping and working with people,” Fred said. “You feel good if you can help somebody solve a problem or stay well.”
When an interested person inquires about RSVP opportunities, Fischer will do an interview and background check, then refer them to a volunteer agency that seems to meet their interests. This not only helps the volunteers, who no longer have to do hours of research on different organizations, but the nonprofit agencies. Now, instead of vetting hundreds of applicants, an agency can let RSVP do the interviewing.
“This way we can spend our time doing other things like focus on training the volunteers and making sure they have a positive experience,” said Natalie Barnofski, Senior Manager of Volunteer Activities at New York Blood Center.