There are people out there who may know nothing about RSVP. There are those dedicated to its mission who see the ending of the program as a great loss.

Effective July 1, the board of directors of the Area 1 Agency on Aging (A1AA) has ended sponsorship of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) primarily for fiscal reasons. The board is grateful to the hundreds of RSVP staff members, volunteers and community organizations who, over the years, made RSVP work for our community and regrets being unable to continue sponsorship of this community service.

It has become increasingly difficult to raise the $38,000 in cash and in-kind match needed to maintain the RSVP grant received from the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS). The RSVP grant has not kept pace with the costs of running the program. Due to the nature of the CNCS regulations, A1AA was also unable to charge the full cost of running the program to the grant and thus had an ongoing deficit.

There is no downside to encouraging community members 55-plus to be engaged in the communities we love. The RSVP grant was used to provide benefits such as mileage reimbursement, volunteer insurance, recognition gifts and publicity for participating volunteer “stations.”

The local RSVP was started in 1973 by the Center for Community Development and co-sponsored by the Humboldt State College Foundation. In 1980, RSVP moved under the A1AA umbrella and had approximately 425 volunteers with a staff of six to seven full-time equivalents. A1AA was incorporated that same year to serve as the mandated administrator of federal Older Americans Act funding in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Recently, the federal government changed the service focus for RSVP volunteer stations. Many locations once supported by RSVP (hospitals, senior centers) were no longer priority RSVP stations because they didn’t fit the Corporation for National Community Service’s areas of focus.

In 2013, due to the vision and commitment of Project Director Maureen McGarry, RSVP shifted its primary focus to environmental stewardship and added the Volunteer Trail Stewards, Potawot Community Garden, SCRAP Humboldt, Northcoast Regional Land Trust and Tolowa Dune Stewards as volunteer stations. In doing so, the local RSVP became the only one in the country with environmental stewardship as its primary focus — an exceptional honor that shows the community commitment to environmental issues.

RSVP helped create a culture of volunteerism on the North Coast. Its continuing legacy is seen through the seniors who volunteer with a variety of local nonprofits and government agencies to improve and enhance life for all of us.

A1AA is grateful to have been able to support the RSVP program for so many years and will continue to support the 100-plus volunteers currently assisting A1AA programs.

Maggie Kraft is the executive director of the Area 1 Agency on Aging.


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