Volunteering: Your Single New Years Resolution 

Published in RINewstoday on January 10, 2023

As the ball dropped in New York’s Time Square, many Americans have already penned New Year’s resolutions for 2023.  Making these resolutions as January approaches has become a very common tradition for millions.

According to the Statista 2022 Consumer Survey (413 adults ages 18 to 89 years old surveyed from Oct. 25 to Nov. 2, 2022) living a healthier life style by going to the gym, eating nutritious meals and even losing weight were the top three New Year’s resolutions for 2023.

While resolutions provide us with a road map as to how we can make improvements in our lives, many can’t overcome obstacles to keep them. An Inc. web article, written by Marcel Schwantes, noted only 9 percent will be successful in achieving their goals.

Just “Pick One” – Resolution

Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s largest hunger relief organizations, calls on people to just put one resolution, “becoming a volunteer” on their list. “Picking a cause and getting out to volunteer turns out to be the one single, achievable, sustainable and widely beneficial resolution for New Year,” says the Minnesota-based company.

That’s a great suggestion.

According to Project Helping, research tells us that “volunteering helps improve mood, makes you feel healthier, increases your sense of purpose, and reduces your stress levels. Volunteering can also give us a deep sense of happiness both immediately and long-term,” the research studies say.

“Our volunteers give their time to help others, and rarely ever think about how it can impact their own lives in so many ways,” said Julie Greene, director of volunteer engagement at Second Harvest Heartland. “Of course, they feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction knowing their contributions are making a difference in people’s lives, but the benefits of their actions go way beyond that. 

Given the camaraderie people feel by coming together and the satisfaction of working on a common goal, I’m not surprised at all that research has proven the benefits of volunteering—we see it every day with the smiles on our volunteers’ faces,” says Greene.

“Volunteering is Medicine for the Soul”

Being a volunteer can also be a protective buffer from the curve balls that life may throw at us as we age. “Volunteering can be medicine for the soul. It allows you to connect with other people, explore and remedy emerging community issues, make a difference as a caregiver or mentor and change lives.

Volunteering is powerful and can define and redirect your life’s journey,” says Vincent Marzullo, who for 31 years served as RI’s National Service Director and still volunteers weekly at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Adds, James Connell, Executive Director, of Age-Friendly Rhode Island:  “There’s no better way to reduce tension, combat social isolation, and feel tremendous self-satisfaction than by connecting with others and giving back to the community and your neighbors by volunteering.”

Connell says Rhode Islanders as a population are aging, nearly one in three of us will become age 65 and over by the end of the decade. “Volunteers and volunteerism will be key factors in creating a great state in which to age. Older adults want to stay active, engaged, and remain in their homes; as a volunteer or by being the recipient of volunteers services we can achieve this and so much more,” he says.

“Aging Rhode Islanders need you,” says Connell.  “Volunteer to provide supports to stay at home, to connect and provide company to combat social isolation, and to positively impact their overall health and well-being trough connection and service,” he adds.

A sampling of Rhode Island volunteer opportunities

For volunteer opportunities, Connell calls on seniors to contact Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP), the nation’s largest volunteer network for those age 55 and over.  RSVP volunteers serve the community at non-profits, community programs, and service agencies. Volunteers mentor school children, prepare tax returns, knit caps for newborns, participate in volunteer transportation networks, and visit homebound Rhode Islanders, he says.

Why not  contact a Community Action Program (CAP) in your region to find out more about volunteer opportunities, suggests Connell, noting that they are located in East Bay (EBCAP), West Bay CAP, East Bay (EBCAP) and at Federal Hill House Providence.

Or you can contact the Diocese of Providence, or other faith communities, to learn more about volunteer opportunities. 

The Neighborhood Friendly Visitor Program, a community-based volunteer program, provides weekly visitors to isolated elderly and disabled adults in Rhode Island, seeks older volunteers, says Connell. “The program was developed in 1978 by Sister Rhea Lachapelle of the Sisters of Saint Ann to address the needs of a growing and diverse population of seniors living alone with little or no social support. Any senior age 60 and over, or disabled person who is homebound, residents of any nursing home or assisted living, or patients at hospitals, is eligible for this program. There are no income guidelines and there is no fee for this service,” adds. Connell.

Connell says that Friendly Visitor volunteers are available state-wide. Volunteers have supplied personnel references and passed a background check through the Office of the Attorney General. The program has on-going recruitment of volunteers who make a commitment to visit or call seniors for at least one hour each week. This program is funded in Partnership with the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging, he says.

The Senior Companion Program, sponsored by the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging (RIOHA) and the federally funded by the Corporation for National & Community Service, also seeks volunteers, says Connell. “Senior companions are over the age of 55 and provide companionship and reassurance with seniors and adults with special needs, he says, noting that these companions visit, and listen.

To request a Senior Companion or to apply to be a Senior Companion contact RIOHA at 401-462.0569.  

Connell also directs seniors to investigate volunteer opportunities at The Village Common of Rhode Island (TVC). The nonprofit, volunteer-driven membership organization supports seniors who wish to age in their home via a network of local villages – communities of mutual support – in Rhode Island.

“We currently have villages in Barrington, Edgewood, Providence and Westerly. Our volunteers assist members in a myriad of ways, from driving to medical appointments and running errands, to doing household chores and minor repairs, to providing technology support for TVs, phones and computers, to making friendly calls and visits,” says Connell, noting that TVC and its local villages host an array of social and educational events for our members and volunteers (live, and via zoom).

Finally, Connell also notes that local Senior Centers, Child and Family Rhode Island, located in Newport and Providence, Meals on Wheels, the Rhode Island Food Bank (or local food banks in every city and town, can be a great source for volunteering, too. 

For details about the benefits of becoming a volunteer, go to 

https://projecthelping.org/benefits-of-volunteering/.

To learn about volunteer opportunities, go to:

A listing of senior volunteer activities, Office of Healthy Aging, go to https://oha.ri.gov/get-involved/volunteer/

AARP Rhode Island, go to https://states.aarp.org/rhode-island/volunteering-aarp-rhode-island

Rhode Island Food Bank, go to https://rifoodbank.org/get-involved/volunteer-in-the-community/ or 

Local food bankshttps://dhs.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur426/files/Documents-Forms/FoodAssistanceProviderListFAL-October-16-2020.pdf

Children@FamilyRI, go to https://childandfamilyri.com/

Rhode Island Community Action Programs, go to  https://www.ricommunityaction.org/find-your-community-action-agency/

Rhode Island Senior and Volunteer Program, go to https://americorps.gov/serve/americorps-seniors

United Way of Rhode Island, go to https://volunteer.uwri.org/

RI Elder Info, Advocacy Agencies, go to https://rielderinfo.com/advocacy-assistance/

Diocese of Providence, go to https://dioceseofprovidence.org/elder-services

Audette Makes Giving Top Priority

Published in Senior Digest on January 2015

You see him everywhere.  Like the “energizer bunny” sporting gray whiskers and a plump belly, semi-retired Pawtucket businessman, Paul Audette has always been an advocate for the “voiceless” in the City of Pawtucket and the surrounding communities.

Watching out for the elderly, he became a volunteer ‘ombudsman’ for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care.  Paul even served as Chairman of the Pawtucket’s Affirmative Action Committee to ensure that everyone had equal opportunities in municipal government.   He has worked for decades assisting those down-and-out, providing them financial assistance out of his pocket, to keep them from being evicted, providing transportation, even to pay for oil to keep their homes warm in winter

Paul has long-ties to many of the City’s nonprofit groups, from the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, the Pawtucket Armory Association including the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theater, the Foundry Artists, the Pawtucket Fireworks Committee, Pawtucket Preservation Society, and the Pawtucket Arts Festival, just to name a few groups.  Over his late years he even has been active bringing his expertise as a property manager and developer to assist the Pawtucket Planning Department streamline the City’s Building permit process.   He personally helps businesses to navigate the City and State’s regulatory process.

Paul co-founded and manages a non-profit group called Helping Hands, and has provided financial assistance to local organizations that help youths at risk, the helpless and homeless.  Since 2006, Helping Hands has given donations to dozens if organizations, including, Cross Roads, Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pawtucket Salvation Army, American Cancer Society, Rhode Island Food Bank, and St. Judes Hospital.

Paul did not learn the ropes about business by attending any of the ivy-league schools, but instead learned the tricks of the trade by working in the trenches.  For over 70 years, his hard work landed him senior-level positions for major corporations including Dunkin Donuts, in addition to serving as ‘Special Assistant’ to the Presidents of Providence Metalizing, working in the Personnel Department, and by managing and developing properties of Pawtucket Businessman Richard Sugarman,  and taking on special projects as assigned.  On one such project, Paul developed a long-time vacant mill into life work space.

This local businessman even ran one of the largest catering companies in Rhode Island, catering over 200 weddings and 10,000 functions over the years.  His corporate and nonprofit clients include widely recognized organizations in the Ocean State, including Hasbro, Hospital Trust, La Salle Academy, BayViewAcademy, and Swank.

Exemplifying the Rotary International’s motto “Service Above Self,” Paul has been a member of the Pawtucket Rotary Club since 2011, and was recognized and awarded the prestigious Paul Harris Award, the highest civic recognition that the national civic group bestows upon an individual.

Throughout his lifetime Paul has been a role model to many, inspiring, teaching and giving them a road map to overcome obstacles in their personal and professional career.  But sometimes the most important ones are those individuals who are not so visible or obvious, like those reported in surveys reported by the nation’s media – the celebrities, professional athletes, or beloved religious figures, but rather that person in your community, whose mere existence quietly impacts you – as well as a community.  That is Paul Audette.

While he seeks no public recognition for his good deeds have not gone unnoticed.  For his unassuming efforts, Paul has been inducted into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame and the French Canadian Hall of Fame.  For his community work, Mayor James Diossa gave him Central Fall’s key to the city.

Joyce Fisher, 68, a Johnston resident who has known Paul for over 53 years, says, “He is always helping somebody, just in his nature. She remembers numerous instances where he stopped to help stranded travelers on the highway, one delaying his vacation to the Cape.  Another incident, he stopped on a dark, lonely highway to help a woman.  A drunk driver crashed into his vehicle, pushing his car into him.  He flew 20 feet into the air landing against the stranded vehicle.  He ended up in the hospital along with the woman he tried to help.

“It never mattered to me about person’s status or position in society,” says Paul, stressing that throughout his eighty plus decades he just tries to help anyone with whatever problems they have to deal with.

Today, “I am free to bounce around, just consulting and mentoring people,” he says, noting that   “until the day I die will jump right in to help a person in need.”

Reflecting on his life Paul considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunities to make the world just a little better place for others.  “I touched many lives in many ways and my life’s satisfaction comes not from the positions I have held or money made, but knowing that I was there for people in need,” he says.

The most important person in your life may well be that person who seeks no recognition, who is there to help humanity – one person at a time – giving of themselves without seeking the accolades from others. For me, that person, is Paul Audette.