RSVP volunteers make a difference

“If it weren’t for these volunteers going to these different agencies throughout the community, I don’t know how some of these agencies would be able to pay for staff,” Desi Gampolo said as she looked around the community room of the Laurels of Steubenville where the Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Jefferson County was holding its annual holiday party on Dec. 18.

“I always say when I go to talk at an event that if people walk through the doors of these agencies, and they look at a lot of the people who are behind the desk and doing a lot of the work, they don’t realize they are not paid staff, that they are actually volunteers in this community and actually giving so much of themselves,” said Gampolo, program manager of the RSVP.

“We have 19 different agencies in Jefferson County where our volunteers serve,” Gampolo said, explaining volunteers provide services at nonprofit or health-related facilities.

“They do tutoring for students in the schools, they work with the chamber (of commerce), the Red Cross, the Urban Mission, the (Tony Teramana) cancer center – it’s just unbelievable what they do,” she said.

The program is near the 100-person mark of volunteers who are age 55 and older, but the RSVP can always use more, according to Gampolo.

The party included games led by Rose Mankowski-Moodie, activities director at the Laurels of Steubenville and also a member of the RSVP Jefferson County advisory board; prizes and gifts; some caroling; lunch; and music by harpist Virginia Miller, 12-year-old daughter of Joshua and Brooke Miller of Toronto.

In addition to Mankowski-Moodie, other advisory board members are Carol Bonar, Trinity Medical Center West; Jaye Needham-Hockenberry, director of volunteers, Trinity Medical Center East; Judy Bratten, director, Historic Fort Steuben; Kathy Musso, executive director Jefferson County Red Cross Chapter; Peggy Elliott, Seniors Programs, Community Action Council; Judy Owings, director, Prime Time Office on Aging; Caroline Harris, social services administrator, Jefferson County Job & Family Services; and Sean Arai, assistant general manager, Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

The service project for the event involved donations of items such as soap, paper products, personal care items, wash cloths, towels, wipes and cleaning supplies to benefit the Community Action Council’s Cathedral Apartments for the homeless – all of which were gratefully accepted by Barb West, CAC director.

The RSVP program is for adults age 55 and over to use their life experience and skills to answer the call of their neighbors in need, according to the RSVP website, which lists its vision as “to serve as a bridge between those who need and those who give” with its mission identified as “to engage men and women age 55 and over in meaningful volunteer service to strengthen the well-being of both self and community.”

A member agency of the United Way of Jefferson County, RSVP of Jefferson County has its volunteers providing a variety of services, including tutoring, mentoring, food and medication assistance, community cleanups and health care services. They work at sites that include the American Red Cross Jefferson County Chapter, Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center, Wells Academy, Trinity Health System, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Charity Hospice, Urban Mission Ministries, YWCA, Historic Fort Steuben, Tony Teramana Cancer Center and Prime Time Office on Aging.

The RSVP office is located in the Gallery building at 2700 Sunset Blvd., Steubenville. Anyone interested in volunteering can call the office at (740) 346-0771.