A ‘lifetime’ of helping others

July 26 at 10:59 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran addresses the RSVP luncheon held last Thursday at the Edward Dufresne Community Center in Luling.
St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran addresses the RSVP luncheon held last Thursday at the Edward Dufresne Community Center in Luling.
Celebrating 40 years of RSVP in the River Parishes, as well as national service, 659 volunteers were recognized for their contributions at a luncheon last Thursday.

RSVP Director Michelle Higgins said the success of the program shows in its numbers.

These volunteers served 71,380 hours of service, which was considered so important to the three parishes that honored them that it was showcased as a big check presented to the parish presidents.

Higgins said these volunteers assisted with emergency preparedness, filled and distributed boxes with food for the needy, prepared meals for the hungry, sat with the lonely, served veterans, made a child feel loved, and assisted in many other ways with nonprofits, faith-based and civic organizations, and healthcare facilities.

“Today we want you to enjoy this day, embrace your accomplishments and know that your time and service to others does not go unnoticed,” she said.  “Your wisdom, love for others, energy and overall commitment for our communities is what makes the River Parishes great. It makes me proud to represent all of you.”

St. Charles Parish’s lifetime hours award recipient was Ruby Anders, an RSVP member since 1999 who served at several volunteer sites.

“I was not expecting this award,” Anders said. “I was so surprised. I love to volunteer and mingle with the different people that come and go. It gets me out of the house while keeping me active and busy.”

Ruby Anders were named St. Charles Parish’s “Lifetime Volunteer” along with St. John the Baptist’s lifetime recipient, Velda Michel, and St. James Parish’s honoree, Mary Cormier.

Higgins said they each worked more than 11,000 hours.

When Anders’ name was called as RSVP’s “Lifetime Hours Award” in St. Charles Parish, she was shocked and honored at the same time.

“I feel honored that I can do it,” Anders said. “I think they appreciate the hours that I give.”

At age 87, Anders’ volunteerism does go back years.

She worked in the gift shop of the former River Parish Hospital until it closed (now an Ochsner’s facility) and continues to volunteer there. She also was treasurer for the Sacred Heart Altar Society for several years and she’s active with AARP as the local group’s secretary.

“I try to stay busy,” Anders said. “It works for me because it keeps me going and I wouldn’t just sit at home and wither away. It’s very important to me to be out and on the go. I get more out it than other do.”

She was a funeral director since 1950. She and husband, Dewitt, lived in the Alexander Funeral Home in Norco for 20 years. When her husband got sick, they retired. Later, they worked part-time with Millet-Guidry Funeral Home in Laplace up until five years ago.

Since 1998, Anders has been volunteering with RSVP.

“I love it,” she said. “It gives me something to get out of the house to do and I enjoy being around people and helping if I can,” she said. “I think the good Lord has blessed me to be ale to do it.”

Anders’ fellow lifetime awardees are equally shocked over receiving this award, mostly because they also enjoy helping others.

Cormier distributes meals at the Council on Aging center, as well as helps collect Bingo money and calling out numbers.

“I just really enjoy seeing the expression on their faces, like when I’ve got that coffee ready for them,” she said. “It’s keeping me young.”

As volunteer since 1995, she is a 79-year-old woman who stays on the go.

“God only know what’s in store for me next year,” she said. “But I still firmly believe my volunteerism is keeping me young.”

In St. John the Baptist Parish, Michel mostly volunteers at the Arc thrift store, as well as belongs to local AARP chapters and Council on Aging, as well as a member of the Altar Society and transports fellow seniors to places they need or want to go.

A volunteer nearly 18 years, she also loves helping people.

Although the 80-year-old has slowed some because of her health, Michel intends to keeping on volunteering as she always has and hopes to continue doing.

“It’s a benefit to me to do things for others,” she said. “I’m just happy working here.”    St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran and St. John Parish Natalie Robottom presented awards to their parish’s volunteers.

Cochran told the volunteers who crowded into the annual luncheon at the Edward Dufresne Community Center in Luling.

“What you all do helps make these services possible,” he said. “You serve as our volunteers during evacuation drills, you decorate and serve food at our luncheons, you participate in events that feed the needy and assist veterans and you present toys to less fortunate children at Christmas during the annual Toy and Gift Fund. But most importantly, all 659 of you do these things for free.”

Cochran also praised the group, adding their volunteerism saves the parish thousands of dollars that go projects like building levees.

According to Higgins, St. Charles Parish 342 volunteers’ 30,000 hours served represented $722,067 in savings to the parish; St. John the Baptist Parish’ 220 volunteers provided 32,861 hours worth $793,264; St. James Parish’ 115 volunteers served 8,609 hours representing $207,827 in savings.

Collectively, the River Parishes’ 659 volunteers served 71,381 hours with a savings of $1.72 million.

View other articles written Anna Thibodeaux

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