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National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month, but what does volunteering really mean?

Five County Area Agency on Aging has three programs that are supported by volunteers. Senior Companions, Foster Grandparents and RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program). These volunteer programs offer opportunities with AmeriCorps Seniors to serve our community. Our volunteers are 55+ years of age and have a desire to help others. Some are mentoring students in elementary schools, serving companionship to seniors, teaching others Live Well classes, fitness classes and calls to alleviate loneliness and isolation.

Our volunteers share why they volunteer and what it means to them.

Paul Parker, Senior Companion volunteer who helps others in the community with companionship, cooking, cleaning, gardening, running errands and rides to doctor’s appointments says that the reason he volunteers is, “What is the one thing that people need in life? Purpose. To feel a purpose. That’s why I do this – purpose.”

Emily Ortez, one of our Foster Grandparents is a math tutor for 8 and 9 year olds. She says, “It’s been very rewarding for me, I mean, I look forward to it every day, you know. And then sometimes, like last year, while they’re on recess or outside, I walked around the building and some of the kids just walked with me and they always want to know how many steps we took with my counter. It’s just been really fun.”

D Anne Robinson, an RSVP volunteer who makes weekly calls says, “I became a volunteer because I enjoy interacting with others and I have the time available to serve. I love making new friends and hope my calls alleviate some loneliness.”

Andi Anderson, who teaches Live Well classes to others in Utah, says, “What being a volunteer means to me – It is so valuable in every aspect.  There is a wonderful Greeting in the African Zulu language: SAWUBONA….It means “I see you and therefore bring you into my being!”  A true connection with another human being.  Lessons learned are not one sided as it flows between each person through actualizations, empathy, compassion, and laughter all tied up with companionship and human connections.  A Wonderful Experience.”

Stephen Dunham who teaches Tai Chi to seniors in the community says, “I volunteer to give back, to pay it forward and to be an influence for good when I have the opportunity, What I have found is you receive much more than you give. You build friendships that can last a lifetime and can be a force to help lift the weary hands that hang down.”

Along with personal reasons for volunteering there are many other benefits. AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers’ benefits are:

Health and Wellness- volunteers experience decreased anxiety, depression, and loneliness. 84% of volunteers report stable or improving health after one year of service.

Self-improvement – this happens as you build on the skills you already have and develop new ones to share.

Community- connect with others and be part of something bigger. 88% of volunteers who felt a lack of companionship reported fewer feelings of isolation after becoming a volunteer.

New skills- volunteers tap into their experience and wisdom to share and learn new skills.

Stipend – Senior Companions and Foster Grandparents offer a stipend to qualified volunteers.

Insurance – volunteers receive supplemental and liability insurance while in service.

But most important is giving back and supporting our community.

“Without volunteers we’d be a nation without a soul.” Rosalyn Carter

To find out how you can be a volunteer contact Joni Lyman for Senior Companion and Foster Grandparents or Maria Bailey for RSVP at 435-673-3548. We are always looking for volunteers to join our programs.

Maria Bailey is the director for the AmeriCorps Senior RSVP program with the Area Agency on Aging - Five County. Maria has been with

the program for a year and a half. While new with the RSVP program, Maria is not new to working with older adults. She has been working with older adults for over 15 years!

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