RSVP a win-win for seniors, agencies

11/16/2013

Editor's note:This is the 20th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.

Editor's note:This is the 20th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Georgia Miller started volunteering with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program about four years ago, following the death of her husband.

"I had to have something to do," she said with a chuckle. "I mean you can't just sit at home."

Garden City residents age 55 and older provide valuable services to various nonprofit, health and other public agencies through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

Better known as RSVP, the senior volunteer agency is one of 25 agencies and programs that are receiving funds from the Finney County United Way's annual fundraising campaign.

Miller, 76, works as a front desk receptionist at the Senior Center about four hours per week, and also volunteers her time during tax preparation season helping people with their tax returns. She felt she had an opportunity due to her experience — she worked for 21 years as a tax preparer for H&R Block — to help others.

Miller said she enjoys volunteering.

"It's a way to get out and meet people and help others. Whatever is necessary, whenever they call me, I can usually do anything for them," Miller said.

RSVP, which operates out of the Senior Center of Finney County, 907 N. 10th St., will receive $15,800 from the campaign for 2014, about $5,000 less than this year.

Marty Dinkel, RSVP's director, said funding from United Way will go down some, but the previous year was a bit unusual in that the program took a 20 percent cut in federal funding and had an overall 25 percent cut in its total budget that was a 15-month budget rather than a normal 12-month budget.

"United Way stepped up and helped us get through that little stretch there, so we didn't ask for as much money as we did the prior year," Dinkel said. "Without United Way, we would have to cut some services, maybe even staff. We have around a $90,000 budget, so United Way dollars are very important to us."

RSVP has been a United Way partner for nearly three decades. A total of 215 volunteers donated 37,703 hours in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Bob Sperling has been volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels for about the last eight years, whenever RSVP gives him a call. RSVP provides volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program for about 12 weeks out of the year.

For some Meals on Wheels clients, Sperling might be their only social contact of the day, which makes it worthwhile.

"I love going and seeing the people. There are some of them I'd accept as grandmothers if they'd let me," Sperling said. "You get to know them as you go around. You don't spend more than a minute or two with most of them, but they like to see you come."

Sperling, who said he's semi-retired, was a salesman for Office Solutions for about 15 years. He's been a Garden City resident for about 16 years, coming from Hays where worked for an office supply company. He and his wife, Marie, have a business they are building called R&M Enterprises.

"I'm fully retired from full work," he said.

The average age of an RSVP volunteer is about 78, but volunteers range from 55 to their 90s and give to agencies across the community. Senior volunteers work in a variety of locations, including Meals on Wheels, St. Catherine Hospital, Emmaus House, the school district, selling tickets at GCCC athletic events, preparing mailings for organizations, and even assisting other seniors with Medicare Part D plans and tax preparation.

United Way dollars help RSVP with volunteer insurance and operating the tax preparation program. Last year, RSVP volunteers helped prepare 1,233 state and federal tax returns.

"We're crazy at tax season," Dinkel said. "We run a lot of people through here. This year we've added an extra volunteer and hope to add a couple of laptops to help with that program."

RSVP tries to match a volunteer's interests with community agencies and organizations that need help. Volunteers must put in an hour of time each quarter to remain in the program. But some volunteers put in much more time.

"We have an individual who does quilts for foster children as a Christmas project and we have an individual who cuts out the blocks for the quilts who puts in 200 hours a month," Dinkel said.

Donna Collins has been a volunteer for about six years, working mostly to help people with Medicare Part D and tax return preparation. She is a retired deputy county clerk of 30 years.

But Collins, 76, also helps out at the reception desk at the Senior Center and does a variety of other tasks when she can — or when called upon by Dinkel, who happens to be her niece.

"She just wouldn't let me alone," Collins jokingly said. "She asked me if I'd do taxes and that just led one thing to another, so when she needs something she calls me, and if I'm able, I do it."

Like other volunteers, Collins also enjoys meeting people.

"I think most of us like it. It gets us out and we meet some really nice people," she said.

The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $560,000, which is $10,000 more than last year.

The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:

Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council - Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains - CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital - Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican - American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission - Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.

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