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A New Way to Serve

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RSVP is now active in Seminole County, and it aims to match seniors and older adults with local nonprofit organizations that need their help

Anew volunteer program recently launched in our community, and it’s sure to be a win-win. Active in Orange County since 1974, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) pairs retirees and other seniors with local nonprofit organizations. It gives older adults the chance to put their wealth of lifetime knowledge to use while helping the community.

“We recruit men and women to volunteer at a variety of nonprofit organizations,” says Nicole Preston, who serves as the new RSVP volunteer coordinator for Seminole County.

Studies have shown that older adults who are isolated and do not foster relationships with others can suffer health decline, lower brain activity, and even premature death. RSVP hopes to address those problems by encouraging seniors to use their energy, creativity, and experience to change the lives of other Central Florida residents. The program matches seniors and their skills with needs in the community, which benefits both the volunteers themselves and the community at large. 

“All we require is that the individual be 55 or older and volunteer maybe once a week,” explains Nicole. “We’re looking for permanent, regular times to volunteer at the same organization, as opposed to an episodic, one-time event.”

When residents register with RSVP, the organization provides a number of benefits to the volunteers, including supplemental insurance and a life insurance benefit in case of injury or death while serving the community. Volunteers also receive recognition and appreciation and a job-specific matching service.

Thanks to a federal grant, RSVP leaders were able to begin planning their Seminole County initiatives last summer.              The grant calls for help in some of the following areas: veterans assistance, in-county school tutoring, job-placement assistance, and nutrition and food support.

Sometimes finding the right organization for a senior’s altruistic spirit can be difficult, but RSVP has a solution for that, too.
“There is a website called VolunteerMatch.com,” says Nicole, “People can enter Seminole County in the search screen, and all of the volunteer opportunities that I have in the county will be there.”

Potential volunteers can enter specific types of volunteer interests, like helping in the school system, for example. RSVP then assigns those seniors in partnership with the Dividend volunteer program, which registers and screens all Seminole County Public Schools volunteers.

If you want to get involved right in your own backyard, consider helping students in one of three specific programs at Spring Lake Elementary in Altamonte Springs. The first is the Reading Acceleration Program (RAP), where volunteers assist first-grade students who are reading below grade level. Volunteers tutor one student at a time for 30 minutes once a week.

The second is mentoring, in which volunteers serve as positive role models to students who need another adult in their lives to help them set goals, attend school regularly, and realize the importance of a high-school diploma.

“The commitment for mentoring is usually one hour per week during lunch,” explains Nicole.

Volunteers can also partner with teachers in the classroom to provide additional instruction.

“Teachers will identify one student or a group of students who need one-on-one instruction during class time,” says Nicole. “This is a great help to both students and the teacher, and it’s a great fit for many seniors.”

While volunteers have always been able to serve through the Dividend program, registering through RSVP offers additional benefits.

“If they register through RSVP, volunteers receive supplemental insurance that will cover any accidents that may occur on the way to volunteering, while they’re volunteering, or on their way home,” Nicole says. “Anything above and beyond their own insurance, we’ll cover.”

And RSVP provides an orientation and an end-of-the-year recognition celebration. RSVP will begin placement in the school system in January, so now is the perfect time to reach out to begin the registration process. 

Some other organizations that are working with RSVP include Christian HELP, Pet Rescue by Judy, and both Idyllwilde and Pine Crest elementary schools in Sanford. The Christian Sharing Center is on board, also, offering volunteer work in various areas like its food pantry, the thrift store and boutique, and the Oasis, a refuge where local homeless can shower, have access to computers, and have their clothes laundered. 

By working exclusively with seniors, RSVP is seeking people to lead with experience.

“This is the best population to volunteer,” says Nicole. “It’s a good match.”

To learn more about RSVP, email Nicole at NPreston@VCIFL.org or call her at 407-625-6010.

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