RSVP members congratulated

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By Kirsten Laskey

Claire Gillis has been a member of the Los Alamos Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) for eight years. She lends her time to a quilters’ group, the Betty Ehart Senior Center and the gift shop at the Los Alamos Medical Center.

“It gives me something to do, it gets me out with people and in return I’m do something good for others,” Gillis said.

To honor Gillis and other volunteers, a party was thrown at the Betty Ehart Senior Center Tuesday. The Los Alamos Big Band played music; tables were piled with edible goodies and cooler bags were distributed to the volunteers.

Irene Powell, RSVP director, said about 150 people attended the event. “We have a unique community of very highly motivated volunteers,” she said. “They are anxious to share their expertise and experience, and are even willing to have new challenges by learning new things.

“These people really care about helping people and helping their community,” she added.

RSVP member John Stewart assists in numerous ways in the area. He said he edits the senior center’s newsletter, serves on the Los Alamos Retired Senior Organization board, acts as treasurer of the Friends of the Senior Center and the Lab Retiree Group Inc.

“It keeps me off the streets,” he joked. “It gives you something to do. I like to be active, namely because you get a sense of accomplishment.”

RSVP membership currently totals 577 volunteers who can select from 87 stations to serve on.

Together, they volunteered 86,935 hours this year. Loring Cox and Mary Zemack clocked in the top number of hours. They each contributed more than 10,000 hours.

“These people really care about helping people and helping the community,” Powell said. “I wish we could do more for them.”

The federal, state and county governments funded RSVP for people older than age 55, who would like to do meaningful volunteer work in the community. The volunteer stations must be a public agency, a private nonprofit agency, a proprietary health care organization or a program sponsored locally.

The organization is a direct result of the information gathered at the 1961 White House Conference on Aging. This knowledge, condensed in the Older American’s Act of 1965, made possible a pilot retired volunteer project on Staten Island. It’s success led to an amendment to the Act in 1969 that created RSVP nationwide.