Senior volunteers celebrated

National Senior Corps Week begins today and the folks at Marietta’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, better known as RSVP, are using the occasion to promote volunteerism throughout the community.

“This week is to celebrate the contributions of our senior volunteers, and this year we wanted to make some noise about it,” said Lisa Valentine, RSVP director.

She said activities are planned throughout the week and began with a kickoff concert featuring the Sunderman Family in East Muskingum Park Sunday afternoon.

“In the past year our members have volunteered 35,000 hours,” Valentine said. “Translated into dollars, these people have provided three quarters of a million dollars worth of service for the local community.”

Gary Worstell of Marietta is a member of the RSVP Council and volunteers as a driver for the Senior Wheels Program.

“It’s for seniors who can’t drive or don’t have a vehicle and need transportation,” he said. “We take them to doctor appointments, to the grocery store, and even some hair appointments. These people are up in years and most don’t have any other way to get where they need to go.”

Jim Naylor also volunteers with RSVP.

“They’ve asked me to read to children at Harmar Elementary School,” he said. “I really enjoy it. Sometimes kids just need to have some one-on-one time that maybe they don’t get at home, and they enjoy the interaction when I read to them.”

Valentine said RSVP seeks volunteers who are 55 years or older.

“A lot of retired people, after they leave the workplace, may spend the first year of retirement getting their homes straightened up and working around the house, but after that they begin to wonder what else they can do,” she said. “Many are able to volunteer and join RSVP. We always welcome more volunteers, and can always find some area that will match any special skills they may have.”

But Valentine noted younger volunteers are also needed by many local non-profit organizations, and said one of this week’s special events-a “Mocktail Party” at the O’Neill Center on Fourth Street from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday-is designed to encourage volunteers of all ages.

“The Mocktail Party is open to anyone,” she said. “There will be food and beverages in a very relaxed atmosphere. This is not a high-pressure recruiting event, and no one will be pushing people to sign up to volunteer for the various programs that will be on display. This party is all about educating people about organizations like RSVP and other volunteer programs that serve nonprofits throughout the Mid Ohio Valley.”

Valentine said non-profits who will be available to talk about their organizations or discuss volunteer opportunities include the Marietta Community Food Pantry, Marietta Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ohio River and Campus Martius museums, and the Franciscan Meals Program.

Other local events marking Senior Volunteers Week include a river excursion aboard the Valley Gem sternwheeler for RSVP volunteers and their guests Wednesday, and a Jeffersonian Dinner Thursday at the Washington County Home.

“The theme for this year’s dinner is homelessness,” Valentine said. “We’ve already sold out of tickets and now have a waiting list for this event. There will be special speakers from Washington-Morgan Community Action, Harvest of Hope, and the Southeast Ohio Legal Aid Society.”