Make a Difference in the Life of an Elder

There are as many reasons to volunteer as there are volunteers. Anyone can volunteer, and they do—every day—in communities like ours across the country. But more than any other time of year, the holidays bring out our compassionate nature. We count our blessings and take stock of our own good fortune. We question how we can do more, not just to achieve the sense of well-being that accompanies doing something kind for others, but to truly commit to helping someone in need.

RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) of King County has no shortage of ways to make a difference in the lives of others. Sponsored locally by Solid Ground, a Community Action Agency dedicated to addressing urgent food and housing needs, RSVP strives to make volunteering easy and rewarding by finding meaningful volunteer positions for those 55 and older.

With the piercing, cold weather that we have experienced lately, food and shelter readily come to mind as essentials in the seemingly endless struggle some face in keeping nourished and warm. RSVP has provided volunteers to support residents of all ages from all walks of life at food banks and assist elders who partake in community dining and Meals on Wheels—essential  programs that provide what is often the only hot meal of the day.

Linda Urbaniak enjoys the simple act of doing good for someone else

Linda Urbaniak, an RSVP member who has volunteered with a Meal on Wheels for a number of years, has seldom, if ever, changed her scheduled Meals on Wheels volunteer time in order to do something else. The job is that important to her. She understands that home-delivered meals are one of the most significant services available. Not only are the meals nutritious and tasty, those who deliver the meals provide important companionship.

Over the years, Linda has become friends with the elders she serves and finds them a source of inspiration in her own life. She deeply admires their ability to deal with trying circumstances, often experienced on a daily basis.

Linda has volunteered in a number of different capacities over the years. She says, "Partly, it's just who I am. Helping people is part and parcel of helping yourself. I come home feeling good. Nothing fancy about it—just the simple act of doing good for someone else."

Making a noticeable difference in your own life as well as someone else's is not difficult. Just ask Cosundra Yancy, another RSVP volunteer who found that by giving her time and services on a regular basis, her life has been immensely enriched.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cosundra Yancy is a tireless ambassador for RSVP.

Brought up with the belief that we all should give back wherever and whenever we can—because that is what you do—Cosundra does that and more. Always there with a helping hand and ready to assist, she helps out in RSVP partner site food banks and United States veterans programs and is a tireless ambassador in promoting and recruiting other RSVP volunteers. Always ready with a smile, she says she has never met a person she could not find a reason to like or say something nice about.

These are just two examples of how our RSVP volunteers touch lives on a daily basis, the good they bring to the program, and the rewards they feel they receive as a result of the gift of volunteering they give to others.

RSVP has many volunteers—more than 600 in King County—and a wide variety of volunteer placement opportunities with nonprofit and public organizations. RSVP volunteers increase food security through volunteering in food banks, Meals on Wheels, community dining programs and nutrition education programs. They help older adults and those with disabilities maintain their independence by providing transportation, companionship, and access to care. They help immigrants and low income individuals gain employment and home-ownership skills. They increase the academic success of students by volunteering as tutors or mentors. Still others provide support for veterans and military families. And that is not the end of the list!

Find out more and allow your heart to open, letting in the joy of the holidays now and all year round. For more information, e-mail janh@solid-ground.org or call 206-694-6786.

Contributor Jan Hancock is the King County RSVP Coordinator at Solid Ground. Read her previous article (RSVP Matches Volunteer Interests, Skills and Schedules with Meaningful Jobs) in the April 2013 issue of AgeWise King County.