RSVP lends helping hand to parish’s seniors

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (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. RSVP is a network of national service programs.

Lupe Sweeney of Des Allemands has been a volunteer with RSVP for almost 15 years.

“I like to help people,” she said.

Sweeney and her fellow volunteers offer seniors a helping hand in different capacities. Sometimes, it might be guiding a senior toward a service they need.

“’Who do I get in touch with, who they can call to get the things they need,” Sweeney said. “I’ve seen it many times. They may need help but not know where to go. We try to help, to point them in the right direction.”

Another focus is preventing seniors from being misled or scammed out of money.

“One gentlemen was called three times,” Sweeney said. “They kept telling him it was his last warning to pay money he owed to the IRS or they were putting out a warrant for his arrest. He paid them every time. He thought his son had taken care of it, and when he asked about it, his son told him it had been taken care of long before. He lost $6,000.”Sweeney said things like not giving out personal information, like a social security number, need to be emphasized.

“As much as we preach it, people still do it,” she said. “Sweeney also will bring necessary items to seniors who may not be able to leave their homes to acquire them, or drive them to see the doctor or “wherever they need to go.”

“It’s very satisfying when someone says, ‘thank you,’ she said.

RSVP responds to community needs in St. Charles, St. James, and St. John the Baptist parishes. Retired and senior volunteers like Sweeney 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.

RSVP’s belief is that the challenges and activities of volunteering promote longer, happier and more meaningful lives for persons age 55 and older and offer volunteers the opportunity to remain active in our society.

Participation in the program is open to people age 55 and over. 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.

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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