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RSVP offers way for seniors to stay active

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St. Charles Parish’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and its senior volunteers are staying as busy as they ever have.

From April of 2016 to March of this year, a total of 659 RSVP volunteers served over 71,380 hours as they made a major positive impact on the River Parishes community.

Part of a network of national service programs, RSVP affords seniors age 55 years and older the opportunity to use their skills and life experiences to provide services to their community. The belief behind the program is that engaging those seniors to volunteer helps build strong community bonds.

“The only requirement is to be 55 years old or over,” said Michelle Higgins, spokeswoman for RSVP. “Our average age is actually 75. It keeps people healthy, active and out the house, a way to keep busy and to keep the mind sharp.”

They get plenty done, as well. Higgins said that it is estimated the cost savings to the River Parishes community based on the volunteer hours served over that year span is over 1.7 million dollars.

Their efforts have included preparing food bank boxes for needy families, volunteering at local hospitals and clinics and helping at local parish events, including the upcoming United Way’s Battle for the Paddle and the recent Alligator Festival.

United Way of St. Charles provides funding for the non-profit organization, something Higgins says in invaluable.

“Any shortfalls we may experience, United Way is there to help,” Higgins said. “It keeps the quality intact and allows us to provide for our volunteers.”

Partners, operations and local organizations, both public and private, receive grants to sponsor and operate RSVP projects in their communities. These projects recruit seniors to serve from a few hours a month to almost full time, though the average commitment is four hours per week.

“(The volunteers) are able to set their own schedule,” Higgins said. “They can volunteer as much or as little as they’re able, which helps.”

Retired and senior volunteers are recruited and assigned locally to serve on a regular basis throughout their communities, in local schools, libraries, adult day care centers, senior centers, hospitals, nursing homes, museums, government agencies, literacy, substance abuse prevention, mass care, disaster relief and many other community service organizations.

Most volunteers are paired with local community and faith-based organizations that are already helping to meet community needs. Applications can be picked up at the St. Charles Parish main office in Hahnville. Retired and senior volunteers serve without compensation but receive benefits of travel reimbursement, meals, accident and liability insurance while on assignment and annual recognition events.

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