RSVP Volunteers Serve the Community and SFCC
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) coordinator Kris Schmidt has always done volunteer work. She volunteered at hospice centers, churches, and Highlands Little Theatre. “Volunteering is good mental health,” Schmidt said. So when SFCC acquired RSVP in 2007 and was looking for a new coordinator, Schmidt jumped at the chance to work for the organization.
RSVP is a volunteer program that is offered throughout the country for adults ages 55 and older. It provides free volunteer placement at nonprofit agencies of the volunteer’s choice. It offers 47 different volunteer locations in Highlands County, such as the chambers of commerce, hospices, schools, charity organizations, and SFCC. Currently, RSVP has 71 volunteers in place at SFCC. They volunteer for SFCC MOFAC, Cultural Programs, the Nursing Department, and as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and General Educational Development (GED) tutors.
“People don’t realize that many organizations couldn’t function without volunteers,” Schmidt said. “The Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, and Habitat for Humanity don’t have paid employees. They are run solely by volunteers.”
RSVP volunteers do many different types of work. A group of volunteers make special shaped pillows so hospice patients can be more comfortable. They also alter the patients’ regular clothing so that they can continue to wear their own clothing but it is easier to remove. Another group makes special aprons and tool belts with different textures, buttons, and other items sewn onto them so Alzheimer’s patients can keep their hands and minds busy while keeping them safe.
A group of church craft ladies sells the crafts they make and donates the money to any organization that needs it at the time. They also teach teenage foster children basic life skills like sewing, how to balance a checkbook, and even hygiene. Another group of volunteers perform as clowns and entertain patients in nursing homes, hospice centers, hospitals, and even in their homes. They also go to Camp Braveheart, a bereavement camp for children, and entertain there. Some volunteers work at health fairs and do free health screenings. They’ve been able to identify high-risk clients and get them medical care.
Schmidt often has experiences through the volunteers that touch her heart. “Sometimes things go full circle,” Schmidt said. “One day a woman named Sheila came in to join RSVP. She looked very familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out who she was. Every time I saw her I would say ‘you look so familiar to me.’ Then one day, after I’d asked her to get in touch with another one of our volunteers for a special project, I realized who she was.”
In 2007, RSVP volunteers worked with Rebuilding Together to help paint a house for a woman who had been laid off and needed some help getting her house up to code. “I realized it was Sheila’s house,” Schmidt said. “She didn’t know that the volunteers who helped paint her house were RSVP volunteers. She had decided to volunteer to give back to the community after it had helped her. Then, after being down in her luck for so long, she was offered a job because of her volunteer work.”
But then another thing happened. “Sheila volunteered at our CarFit event that we had on campus in November,” Schmidt said. “During the event, I heard someone squeal with joy. It turned out that Sheila and another one of our volunteers who was there that day had once been great friends but had lost touch with each other 15 years ago. They found each other at CarFit!” Schmidt said with a laugh.
“My RSVP volunteers are angels throughout the community,” Schmidt said. “I think everyone should spend some time volunteering. You never know how you’re going to touch somebody.”