First of all, a big THANK YOU to all of our volunteers for your continued support in giving back to our community by being a volunteer through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). I cannot tell you how much your involvement is appreciated, both by those who directly benefit from your time and effort, and by the entire United Way staff … you ARE truly appreciated!

RSVP sponsored a recent AARP Smart Drivers course for the public that was led by Bob Glazar, certified AARP instructor and RSVP Advisory Council member. The senior participants received a refresher on how to be a smart and safe driver, and learned of changes in recommended driving procedures. The graduates of the class now qualify for a discount in their vehicle insurance from their personal insurance companies.

We currently have several agencies that need assistance; if you can help or have an interest, please call Joyce Franklin at 601-693-2732. The agencies are: Lauderdale County Welcome Center (greeters), Boys and Girls Club (mentors); MCC Art Gallery (greeter), Meals on Wheels (food delivery), MSU Riley Center (ushers), Children’s Museum-Meridian (office), and the RSVP Office is coordinating free Reading Machines for the Blind. We will coordinate your willingness to volunteer and your available time, with those agencies that need help.

Of course, needs are always changing, so your flexibility will be appreciated. Please also encourage some of your friends to become involved; we need more people, and they will enjoy their volunteerism, especially if it includes serving with someone they already know.

Operation Helping Hands is a special program for visiting, calling, and sending greeting cards to the homebound or at nursing homes. Many of you do this already for your church or personal friends, but you can also help RSVP at the same time. We would like to include your hours in the total hours of volunteer service to more accurately reflect our outreach and community services provided.

The guidelines for Operation Helping Hands are simple, please call Joyce Franklin or Tom Tabereaux weekly (601-693-2732) and let us know the number of hours that you:

• Visit those in nursing homes, hospitals or at their home;

• Run errands for them (ex: grocery or drug store);

• Take them to a doctor visit, or

• Simply call them on the phone to check on them, and let them know that someone cares about them.

We want to include these hours of community service as part of the volunteer hours we are required to report for our federal grant, so you will be helping others and helping RSVP! (We cannot count, however, hours visiting or calling family members, or political visits.) Please help us be more pro-active in this community outreach program.

Remembering First Responders on 9/11: We will again be providing baked goods to thank our local first responders. This includes local police, sheriff’s deputies, firemen, ambulance crews, etc. We need volunteers who are willing to bake or buy a cake or cookies, and some who are willing to help deliver the baked items.

Volunteer Appreciation Day luncheon event is planned for Sept. 16. We anticipate an 11 a.m. start time. Activities will include volunteer recognition, entertainment, and giving away many door prizes. Tickets will be given out in early September to the non-profit agencies where the volunteers actually serve.

Of course, the primary role of RSVP is to connect people who are 55 or more, with an opportunity to help one of our 24 non-profit organizations that needs additional volunteer support to achieve their mission of helping others. Volunteers in RSVP determine which agency and how many hours they wish to serve each week. The time commitment can vary from a few hours a month to almost full-time, with around four hours a week often typical for many of the volunteers.

RSVP has been a community impact program of United Way of East Mississippi since 1974. United Way understands that volunteers can have critical roles in strengthening our community and helping agencies meet vital needs. RSVP volunteers allow two dozen partnering agencies to expand their capacity to provide services to those individuals who need assistance.

We encourage those who are 55+ to contact RSVP and let us help you find options to choose from in working with local non-profits that need another pair of hands, or a special project where you can assist while doing something you enjoy. Evidence shows that older persons who are active and volunteer tend to live longer and live better. If you are wanting to do something that will help others, or looking for an opportunity to get out in the community and enjoy time spent with companions, please consider volunteering with RSVP, simply by calling 601-693-2732.

• Tom Tabereaux is director of the Meridian/Lauderdale County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program

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