“When I retired, I knew I wanted to volunteer," says RSVP Northern Virginia volunteer Pat Dubois. “I wasn’t sure what opportunities really suited me,” the Falls Church resident says.
Pat was seeking an opportunity that offered flexibility, would afford her the chance to meet other retirees and one that would allow her to serve the community. Two years ago she found all three thanks to RSVP Northern Virginia. Pat says now, “I cannot imagine not volunteering.”
After attending an RSVP information session, the RSVP volunteer specialist gave Pat a list of possible opportunities based on her interests and background. One that caught her eye was Meals on Wheels of Arlington.
Volunteering with Meals on Wheels of Arlington
Meals on Wheels provides its clients with necessary meals five days a week, according to Pat. The meals are provided to those who are unable to prepare meals for themselves. There are multiple routes designed to serve 6-12 clients a day. Pat volunteers one day a week in Arlington. Volunteers pick up the prepared meals at a church at the same time every day (11 a.m.) before making their rounds, which Pat says typically takes her about 90 minutes.
“Some of the clients have been on their own for some time,” Pat says. “They look forward to seeing you (the volunteer), sharing some of the events in their lives and they talk about their family." Often times, the Meals on Wheels volunteer may be the only human contact the client will have on any given day, according to Pat. “Developing a relationship with those clients is very important to them, and it is very rewarding for the volunteer.”
In Fairfax County, RSVP can match its volunteers with food delivery opportunities through Fairfax County’s Volunteer Solutions and in Alexandria, through Senior Services of Alexandria. “Supporting these food delivery programs is a crucial part of RSVP’s ongoing commitment to helping area seniors age in place,” says RSVP volunteer specialist Carly Hubicki.
According to the 2012 United States of Aging survey, “Approximately 90 percent of seniors intend to continue living in their current homes for the next five to 10 years.” Carly says Pat delivers meals to around 40 clients every month and makes a major difference in the lives of seniors who want to age in place. “Pat is a wonderful, reliable volunteer,” Carly says.
Pat also volunteers with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at one of its locations in Falls Church. With the help of dedicated and trained volunteers like Pat, low-income families throughout Northern Virginia received over $10.7 million in refunds last tax season.
Why does Pat think senior volunteerism is important?
“For so many different reasons,” she says. “Part of it is for our own well- being.” National studies have found that seniors who volunteer for at least one year show signs of improved physical health and even improved mental health in many cases. “Volunteering, giving back to the community, to me, is so rewarding," Pat says. She says volunteering has been “absolutely wonderful, just in meeting others who also volunteer and helping clients."
The Benefits of Volunteering with RSVP
Pat says RSVP is particularly helpful because it gives one an opportunity to see what fits with your personality, do you want an activity you can do on your own or with a larger group. “As a volunteer, you are able to determine what type of activities suits your schedule, that is what is really nice about RSVP,” Pat says.
Pat fits in RSVP “one-offers” (one time volunteer projects) whenever she can. She says they are fun and also gives her a chance to meet other volunteers in addition to the ones she works with at VITA and with Meals on Wheels. “I highly recommend RSVP to anyone who is thinking of volunteering or who really loves to help other people," she says. “You meet people who are like-minded and enjoy volunteering. It’s extremely rewarding.”