Livingston program recruits senior volunteers - Catholic Courier
David and Elaine Weber of Caledonia retired recently and have begun helping the needy in their community through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. David and Elaine Weber of Caledonia retired recently and have begun helping the needy in their community through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

Livingston program recruits senior volunteers

When trying to explain her role as the volunteer coordinator with the new Livingston County Retired and Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP), Kathy Wood said she is a "volunteer matchmaker" who pairs potential volunteers 55 years and older with nonprofit organizations.

The RSVP program started in Livingston County Jan. 1 and is funded by a three-year grant from the independent federal agency the Corporation for National and Community Service.

One of the first partnerships that the RSVP program formed was with Catholic Charities of Livingston County, which is providing RSVP with working space at its headquarters in Mount Morris.

RSVP is helping to provide volunteer referrals to several Catholic Charities programs, including Faith in Action, and it also is recruiting volunteers for several other partners: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, Honeoye Falls/Lima Friends in Service Here, Literacy Volunteers of Livingston County and Noyes Hospital.

According to May Beth Gueldner, a certified volunteer administrator and the director of Lifespan’s Monroe and Livingston County RSVP programs, volunteer recruitment for each of these partners is limited to:

  • nonmedical companionship and respite care for older adults,
  • adult literacy and education,
  • school age mentoring/tutoring,
  • transportation for older and disabled individuals to necessary medical appointments
  • and community volunteer recruitment.

Gueldner, a former Catholic Charities employee, noted that RSVP had already planned to partner with Catholic Charities even before seeking office space there, and she noted that the offices are centrally located within Livingston County.

"When this all came about, it was almost like it was seamless," said Gueldner, who noted she hopes people will view RSVP as an independent volunteer recruitment organization and not a Catholic Charities program.

Catholic Charities of Livingston County Executive Director Carlos Garcia said the partnership may help free up some CCLC personnel to look for grants and new funding sources for programs, which are needed due to human-services funding cutbacks.

"We are creating a mind-set among our organizations that we can work together, and that we are not stepping on each other’s toes," Garcia said. "The bottom line is that we need each other, especially in these fiscal times we are in."

Wood, the Mount Morris-based volunteer coordinator who previously helped recruit volunteers through the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, said as part of RSVP, she gives new volunteers a skills and interests inventory and a basic background check before matching them up with an organization. The organization may then require additional background checks or training.

In addition to potential volunteers, community organizations are needed to partner with RSVP to receive volunteer recruits. For example, Catholic Charities’ Faith in Action program and the Honeoye Falls/Lima FISH programs have already signed on to receive transportation volunteers.

Small mileage reimbursements may be available to transportation volunteers who could not otherwise volunteer to drive, and RSVP also offers volunteer drivers supplemental accident and liability insurance for accidents that occur while a driver is volunteering.

Although much of Livingston County RSVP is focused in its scope, Gueldner noted that the program’s community volunteer recruiters would have the flexibility to connect people of any age with a range of volunteer opportunities. These senior volunteer recruiters would make presentations to community groups to promote volunteerism in Livingston County.

Gueldner said she hopes within a year to bring the community volunteer recruiters to Monroe County as well.

"You have to find the right people and they have to spend enough time to know about the organizations and have connections so that they can go out and talk to people," she said.

Gueldner said Livingston County RSVP might be able to expand in the future to recruit volunteers for other service areas, depending on available grants and the priorities of RSVP’s funder, the Corporation for National and Community Service. The corporation’s other programs include Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America grants and a Nonprofit Capacity Building Program.

But for now, Gueldner said she wants people to become familiar with RSVP and to recognize that its move into Livingston County will help address community needs.

"I want people who are over the age of 55 to be able to make a difference in their community," she said. "Just because you are close to retirement age doesn’t mean you retire from living."

EDITOR’S NOTE: There will be an information session about Livingston County RSVP at 10 a.m. May 11 in the community room at the Goodwill Building in Geneseo, 4119 Lakeville Road. Call Kathy Wood at 585-658-4466, ext. 21, to sign up to attend.

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