Over 55 and looking for a way to help out in the community? Retired and need something to keep you active and engaged? Look no further than the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). The program is looking for more volunteers.
Deisha Finley is the associate director for volunteer management and special projects and manages the AmeriCorps Seniors’ projects for the CAC. She has been with the organization for just over 10 years.
“This program is a way to mobilize older adults in our community,” Finley said. “RSVP is a capacity-building resource for local non-profits. It’s like Match.com for volunteers.”
The program supports and matches individuals with non-profit opportunities based on their interests, experience, education and skills. Volunteers can offer their time for as little or as much as they like, from a few hours a week to 40.
Finley said the approach produces two positive outcomes: providing needed support to our local community while also keeping the aging population physically active and socially engaged.
One of the areas, for example, where volunteers might work is with the CAC Volunteer Assisted Transportation providing rides for seniors and those with disabilities to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store or even social visits. VAT even provides a vehicle.
RSVP is one of three programs that fall under the AmeriCorps Seniors umbrella for those over 55. Foster Grandparent is a mentorship program for qualified volunteers to provide academic, social and emotional support for young people who have exceptional needs (Important to note, this is NOT part of the foster care system).
The Senior Companion Program provides support for aging adults fighting loneliness, isolation and other barriers to social interaction. Being a friend and helper to older neighbors often helps keep them living independently in their own homes longer.
Covid presented challenges for seniors providing help to seniors, especially in the early days of the pandemic.
“We had very active volunteers who understandably paused their services,” Finely said. “This left some of our clients completely isolated. We saw a need to make some adjustments.”
That adjustment came in the form of Senior Care Calls, where RSVP volunteers were vetted and trained remotely to do weekly wellness check calls while in-person visits were reduced/on hold.
“These are 15- to 45-minute calls to have meaningful conversations, build a rapport, and ask some basic questions. Did you eat lunch today? Are you taking your medications?” Finley said. “It’s important to know someone cares about you and is going to check on you.”
Finley said she can’t say enough about the people who step up to help with the variety of CAC outreach programs.
“I think it’s a really well-kept secret what all our volunteers do in the community. We depend on volunteers in every division of CAC. There are a lot of needs for a lot of programs,” she said. “These grassroots efforts by our volunteers are helping people and changing lives.”
For more information or to volunteer for these programs go here or call 865-524-2786.