RSVP to the Rescue

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Mildred McCoy
PAR Client Annie Hornsby Vol Carmen Modestino

An Army of Volunteers: RSVP to the Rescue

By Mindy Ragan Wood

Christmas is the season of giving, but for those in the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), it’s a way of life all year long.

RSVP has provided 9,593 volunteers, serving 7.3 million hours on behalf of local non-profit agencies since opening its doors in 1973. They are an army marching to schools, human service agencies, museums, airports, blood drives, and countless other organizations filling critical needs in their communities.

RSVP is a hub, matching volunteer members with organizations who need short term or long term help. RSVP Outreach Coordinator and Provide-A-Ride Coordinator Lisa Davenport said RSVP partners with between 120-150 area agencies and manage a volunteer base around 900 members strong. But, there’s always a need for more volunteers as RSVP workers pass away or simply move from the area.

Their stories are full of real-life Hallmark movie moments as they bring joy and hope to children, teens, families, and the at-risk aging population. RSVP members must be at least 55 years old, but most are between 70-75 years young, active and happy to find useful ways to spend their days.

“It’s a two way street,” said Davenport. “Volunteers tell us they get as much out of volunteering as they give. They start out to help someone, but they’re getting so much more back. We have a lot of volunteers who were sitting at home, retired with nothing to do. Their spouses pass away and they start getting depressed. It gives them a reason to get up in the morning and get out.”

Nothing makes a person feel better like making a difference in someone else’s life. Davenport has witnessed many such instances as she talks with volunteers and participants, in particular the growing need for the Provide-A-Ride program. Sometimes the free medical transportation is the only thing that stands between a senior entering a nursing care facility and living independently.

Mildred, a Provide-A-Ride client said, “Life has slowed down for me now that I’m 75 years old. It seems like it was just yesterday I was the one driving the kids everywhere, giving my friends rides when they needed a helping hand, and looking out for my older parents. It’s funny how our lives come full circle. Today things are different. I live by myself in my own home, but thankfully I’m not alone. Because of my friends, family and RSVP Provide-A-Ride, I have everything I need to continue to live a happy, independent and healthy life.”

Volunteer opportunities vary widely. Long term positions can include clerical work like reception and data entry, tutoring with a school program, helping with a food or clothing pantry, or provide assistance to travelers at the airport. Short term opportunities could include passing out literature or free shirts for the Oklahoma Blood Bank, help children make Christmas ornaments at a museum or wrap presents for the Salvation Army Angle Tree clients.

John Giger has been volunteering for Rebuilding Together, reviving neighborhoods through home repairs. For 12 years he has picked up his tool box for a good cause.

“I picked up my desire to volunteer and help others from my dad. I saw him give so much to help others whenever he could,” Giger said.

Beyond the home repairs, the real caring takes place by simply being a friend.

“Most of the seniors we help are lonely and they simply want someone to talk to,” Giger said.
Cheryl Foshee lends her time to several agencies as the needs arise including Citizens Caring for Children, Suited for Success (a job placement program), and Provide-A-Ride.

“It has made me more humble,” she said. “They teach me too – the kids, the people I help. They’ve made me a better person. I see how much need there is, and it makes me realize I don’t have much to complain about with my own needs and struggles.”

Whether lending an ear or a hand, there’s a way to give back through RSVP. For more information about how to get involved or to support RSVP financially, visit or call them at 405-605-3110. Their office is located at 7401 NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City.

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