Retired Senior Volunteer Programs in Scott and Cape Girardeau counties provide a variety of opportunities for retired persons age 55 or older to participate more fully in the life of their community through significant volunteer service, said Tina Dohogne, executive director.
"There's always some community need that someone's needing a volunteer for, and somebody shouldn't be afraid to volunteer and they'll get a lot out of it," Dohogne said.
On Saturday 898 volunteers will be recognized for serving 123 agencies in Scott and Cape Girardeau counties with close to 100,000 hours of volunteer service in 2005. This year's theme is "Volunteers Complete the Circle of Life."
Among those to be acknowledged is Bea Heisserer of Sikeston, who has been volunteering for 16 years. Currently, the 70-plus year-old volunteers at the intensive care unit waiting room desk at Missouri Delta Medical Center Sikeston.
"I just like to help people, and I'm not in my business anymore," Heisserer said about why she likes to volunteer. "I got bored. You can only play cards so many times a week."
So Heisserer began volunteering. She joined the Scott County RSVP and works three days a week and sometimes more at the hospital. She also helps out when a blood drive comes through the hospital.
A majority of Scott County's 265 volunteers are from Sikeston, Scott City and Chaffee, Dohogne said. And more could be used in the Sikeston area, she added.
"We could always use people in that area, and that's a big part of the county," Dohogne said.
Nonprofit organizations like schools, nursing homes and nutrition centers are among places utilized by RSVP. In Sikeston, many people volunteer at the YMCA, Bootheel Food Bank, United Way, MDMC and the Sikeston OAKS Center.
"When they do volunteer, it brings out a sense of gratitude and connection with people in need," Dohogne said.
Years ago man in Sikeston who volunteered wanted to work with young boys in a juvenile home, Dohogne recalled.
"These boys had been arrested for vandalism, car theft and were troublemakers in school system," Dohogne said. "The reason why he wanted to that, he used to be a hellion himself and could relate to them."
Throughout the years, the number of senior volunteers has fluctuated.
"It depends on the time of year and the structure of what's going on," Dohogne said. "We haven't had a volunteer quit, but if they do it's because they just can't do it anymore. And that's the sad part of it."
Now when people retire, they travel more than they did in 1980, when Dohogne started working for RSVP.
"Before a lot of people, didn't drive and there wasn't anywhere to go," Dohogne said. "This was an outlet for them -- to volunteer."
Helping others is rewarding and more volunteers are needed, Heisserer said.
One of the reasons Heisserer thinks some of her peers aren't volunteering is they have a misconception they have to put in a set amount of hours.
"You just donate a few hours. I think a lot of people just don't know about it, and they think if they do volunteer, they think they're stuck," Heisserer said. But things are looking up. Already since January, 60 or more volunteers have joined Scott and Cape counties' RSVP, Dohogne said.
About 160 senior citizens make up the Mississippi County RSVP, volunteering at Charleston and East Prairie nutrition centers, nursing homes, MDMC, blood drives and museum, according to Heather Carden, project assistant for Mississippi County RSVP.
"We always would love to have more volunteers," Carden said. "I think sometimes it's hard because they don't feel they could really make a difference, but they really can."
The Mississippi County RSVP based in East Prairie will hold its volunteer recognition banquet April 28 at the Methodist Church in Charleston in conjunction with National Volunteer Appreciation Week.
Carden noted Christy Story will assume the role as executive director by the end of the month.
To join, interested senior citizens should just call the RSVP office, Dohogne said.
"We fill out a short application on them and ask them basic questions, such as what they did before they retired. And then we match them up with whatever they're interested in," Dohogne explained.
Since Scott and Cape County RSVP began 33 years, times have changed, Dohogne said.
"But the needs are still there," Dohogne said. "We're always going to have different social problems and issues change in society."
For more information, call 471- 8584 or 887-3664 for Scott County RSVP or 649-5243 and Mississippi County RSVP.