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Monday, July 28, 2014

Program can help seniors feel better, live longer

Friday, July 19, 2002

CHAFFEE -- Ninety-two-year-old Eloise Moore lost her 38-year-old daughter to cancer several years ago. Moore's father died soon after. She didn't care how she dressed or what she looked like. Moore didn't care about anything. She just "got sloppy," as she calls it.

Moore's father had been a volunteer for the Scott County Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Chaffee so Moore decided she would also give it a try. Moore began volunteering at the nutrition center, and then a teacher's aide position opened up at the Chaffee School District. She decided to take the position, and has been there almost 30 years.

"I highly recommend the program to everyone," Moore said. "It helped turn my life around and gave me something to keep my mind on. I didn't have to waste time worry about other things."

During the school year, Moore spends five hours a day, five days a week in the first grade classroom. She's also been an aide for the kindergarten. In the classroom, Moore grades papers and records grades. The RSVP pays for her rides from the Scott County Transit, and her lunch is free.

"By getting involved, the program makes seniors feel better and live longer lives," Tina McDowell, Scott/Cape Counties RSVP director, said. She added, "And that's what we're here for."

Currently there are 584 volunteers at the Scott/Cape Girardeau Counties RSVP. These volunteers generate approximately 80,000 hours each year, McDowell estimated.

RSVP is for people ages 55 and older. They volunteer for non-profit agencies, such as schools, government agencies and children's services.

It's no secret volunteering has paid off for Moore -- and in more ways than one. "I've had people tell me they think I'm happier since I've been helping at the school," she said.

Moore said she has her own desk, chair, wastebasket and stapler. "The school gives me everything I need, and I just sit in my own little corner of the room," she said. "There's no other place I'd rather be."

Moore also serves as an unofficial historical consultant. Sometimes Moore said she puts her two cents in, especially when the students talk about an event or something she remembers.

"I love the kids," Moore said. "And I think they love me." Some of the young boys even walk Moore to lunch, holding her hand, she said. The school also threw her a birthday party when she turned 90.

RSVPs connect seniors with volunteers and resources so they may work as effectively and efficiently as possible to create positive change for communities, McDowell said. Volunteers have an opportunity to continue to contribute their talents and skills to benefit others, which in return enhances the quality of life for all, she said.

Seniors can volunteer as much or as little time as they want, McDowell insisted. They don't have to volunteer every day or every week. Some seniors will volunteer just for certain events. It's whatever they want to do, she said.

McDowell reminds seniors who are physically disabled they're not exempt from the program. It's actually quite the opposite. "Every senior has something to offer," she assured. "If they can't get out of their home, we bring work to them."

Moore said she's seen many changes with the program throughout the years, but the biggest change is the increased popularity of the RSVP.

"It's outgrown me," Moore said. "It used to be just Scott County and then they added Cape County to it. A lot of people are volunteering."

As for heading back to the classroom this school year, Moore thinks she will. She said her doctor told her recently there's no reason she shouldn't go back to school. He thinks it's good for her to get out and be active, especially since she's in good health.

"I love it (volunteering at school)," Moore said simply. "I feel I'd be doing myself wrong if I didn't go back."

To find an RSVP near you, call the Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging toll-free at 1-800-392-8771.