RSVP is here to serve seniors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program sponsored by the City of Natchez as part of the Natchez Senior Citizen Center has served the community well for the past 36 years.

Frances Trosclair became the first RSVP director in 1974; Barbara Byrne continued as director in 1977 when Mrs. Trosclair took over as director of the Natchez Senior Center. Mrs. Byrne served as RSVP director for 15 years until she became the next director of the senior center in 1992. At that time, I moved up from assistant director to director of RSVP. Then, when Mrs. Byrne retired in 2000, Mrs. Sabrena Bartley took over as executive director of the senior center.

In my 20.5 years with the RSVP program, much change has occurred over the years. In 1974, 50 volunteers joined up at RSVP. The last charter member, who died a couple of years ago, was Johnnie Craig. Today, we have 400 senior volunteers serving 60,283 hours at 18 volunteer agencies and organizations in our community.

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That Natchez Children’s Home, Natchez Community Hospital, Natchez Regional Medical Center, Natchez Retiree Partnership, AARP, Natchez Senior Center and American Red Cross are just a few of our volunteer stations where our RSVP volunteers serve.

Since 1996, RSVP has been a part of the Senior Corps under the federal agency, the Corporation for National Community Service. Since then, great strides have been made to improve and increase performance measures in many of the RSVP volunteer stations.

Beginning in 2013, all RSVP organizations around the state and country will be competing for federal dollars according to how well each RSVP program successfully performs. Currently there are 500,000 senior volunteers serving at more than 400 RSVP projects around the country. The state of Mississippi has 12 RSVP projects, plus Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent programs.

TRIAD, one of RSVP’s successful volunteer stations, is currently in its 12th year of operation. Our Natchez, Adams County TRIAD consists of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the Natchez Police Department and RSVP. TRIAD is governed by an advisory council — Seniors and Lawmen Together.

TRIAD provides the opportunity for the exchange of information between law enforcement and senior citizens. This is done through a series of mini-seminars around the community, such as Neighborhood Watch meetings, church groups, senior groups and civic organizations.

TRIAD’s mission is to educate seniors. By communicating with senior citizens about their needs and concerns on crime prevention, both the community and law enforcement can develop solutions in reducing crime in our area.

TRIAD also concentrates on safety at home and away from home, heat safety and storm safety. TRIAD recently purchased weather radios and personal assistance security systems. These items will be given away upon request from a senior citizen over the age of 50. To be able to get a weather radio, the senior must live outside the city limits. Sirens can be heard in the city.

Furthermore, the Senior Alert pendants with dialing voice consoles will be given away to any senior who lives alone or who is disabled. There is no service fee; the unit is connected to a land line phone. When the button is pressed by the senior a message contacts up to four responders letting whoever answers the phone know of a potential emergency.

If you are interested in these items, contact me at 601-442-5082 or come by the RSVP office on the second floor of the senior center at 800 Washington St.

Finally, the Natchez Retiree Partnership, formerly under the management of the Economic Development Authority, is one of RSVP’s volunteer stations. Since its inception in 1994, our volunteers have successfully recruited 228 retired families to live in Natchez. Our RSVP volunteers are directly responsible for recruiting the retirees from all over the country over the years. This is the equivalent economic impact of 2.1 industrial jobs for each family; that is, an economic impact equal to 500 jobs for the Natchez-Adams County area.

If you are 50 or older and desire to become an RSVP volunteer, contact me at the Natchez Senior Center. RSVP provides the opportunity to channel your skills, experience, mature and caring judgment to local community needs. You are assured of a volunteer assignment that matches your talents and interests. Volunteering with RSVP will enrich your life personally and physically, as well as improve services and overall life in our community.

I would like to thank the businesses who make generous donations for door prizes.

Janet McNeely is the RSVP director at the Natchez Senior Citizen Center.