Saturday, July 26, 2014 Tammuz 28, 5774

RSVP With Help

May 20, 2013 By:
Bill England, Special Sections Feature
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RSVP director Bill England and staff member Suzanne Udell go over upcoming projects.

When it comes to volunteerism and community service, not many organizations in the Philadelphia area can match the efforts of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

This dedicated group of individuals, all 55-years-of-age and older, place their indelible mark on the quality of life throughout the city each and every day of the year. Without their services, many non-profit organizations and agencies would not be able to provide the full range of services and resources for their members and constituents.

I should know: I’m project director for the Philadelphia area’s RSVP, located at the Klein JCC in the Northeast, which also is its sponsor, with funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Our volunteers — whose expertise is in so many fields — truly make a genuine difference with all they contribute on a daily basis. Last year, some 900 of our volunteers delivered 45,000 hours of volunteer services to 95 nonprofit agencies, and we’ll be striving to do more this year. But because of cuts in government funding and reductions in foundation grants and other private sources, there is an ever-increasing demand for this group’s services.

In addition, the Corporation for National and Community Service is now challenging the organization to provide more by demonstrating  positive impacts on the community through measurable outcomes, with a greater emphasis on literacy and education, hunger, nutrition and aging.

With that in mind, we’ll be looking to focus our resources and volunteer services in such a way that we can clearly demonstrate substantial impacts in those areas.

Facing a challenge? I’m no newbie at what I do, having come from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, where I was the director for its Pennsylvania civic engagement department. I also spent several years in Washington, D.C., working on policy and advocacy efforts whose aim it was to improve access to healthcare, education and community building.

Experience has helped me engage my focus here, where I’m working to create a new and innovative model and strategy to meet the new federal guidelines which are mandating changes in RSVP’s programming and focus. For example, in the area of education, we’re implementing a program where RSVP volunteers serve as tutors and mentors throughout the School District of Philadelphia. We’ve already added schools in Center City and South Philadelphia to the program with more to follow in this new model for volunteer services in education.

In the area of nutrition and hunger, there is an ever-increasing demand for what we do. We are expanding the roles of our volunteers in providing delivered meals to homebound seniors who cannot shop or cook for themselves.

Last year, RSVP volunteers cooked and delivered 40,000 meals to the homebound elderly in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties and we’re striving to provide more this year. Moving forward from there, we additionally envision partnering with other  activists and organizations to create community gardens throughout the city that will feature a major food-sharing component.

In the area of aging, we’re projecting something I call “Fix for a Friend,” in which RSVP volunteers go directly into homes to make minor repairs for active adults so that they may continue to live independently for as long as possible.
We hope that they also will help identify more serious repair issues and provide suggestions and guidance for making the needed repairs.

In addition, some RSVP volunteers have been especially  trained in IRS tax regulations and are available to help prepare income tax statements free of charge for area seniors coming to the Klein JCC.

Our volunteer corps also works to educate visitors to Philadelphia’s historic sites and museums; comforts the frail and infirm elderly in area long-term care facilities; educates the community-at-large about environmental issues; and teaches English and citizenship to immigrants, and much more.

Although the challenges are great, the opportunities for success to continue to enhance the quality of life for people from all walks of life are at hand.
And that’s just what RSVP is going to do — succeed!

To volunteer at RSVP or  find out more abouut their services, call director Bill England at 267-345-7787.
 

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