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

The Best of…RSVP Provides Volunteer Opportunities Throughout Rhode Island

Published July  2, 2001, Pawtucket Times

         A little bit of leisure activity, combined with a part-time job, with a little volunteering are just the right mix of ingredients to make Janet Catineault’s retirement years fulfilling.   

          At age 68, Catineault, who formerly was employed by Fuller Box Company in Central Falls and International Packaging in Pawtucket, now works as a part-time receptionist at the City ofPawtucket’sLeonMathieuSeniorCenter.  The semi-retired Pawtucket resident has joined 4,500 senior volunteers in Rhode Island who give time to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.  This federally funded program, authorized by Congress in 1971, helps people age 55 and older put their skills and live experience to work in their communities.  RSVP volunteers serve in a wide variety of organizations ranging from hospitals and nursing homes, youth recreational centers to local police stations, historic sites to education facilities.

         Serving as an RSVP volunteer at the Leon Mathieu Senior Center, Catineault has taken on the role of a friendly visitor an elderly woman.  “I took her out to visit different nursing homes,” said the RSVP volunteer, noting that a tour of these facilities allowed her older companion to have a choice in the selection of a facility.   Additionally, Catineault has served meals at the Pawtucket senior center and has assisted another homebound elderly person with shopping, banking, and housework.

         “I volunteer with RSVP because I enjoy helping people out,” Catineault tells The Times.  “I thought about doing this for years and now that I have a few extra hours, I do it.  When we visit seniors it gives them something to look forward to, a little lift for the day and makes them feel important,” she said.

          At the RSVP program, sponsored by Blackstone Valley Community Action Program (BVCAP), there are 43 volunteer sites throughout Pawtucket,Central Falls, Lincoln and Cumberland, noted Caleb Petrin, the nonprofit community action program’s RSVP Director. 

         According to Petrin, 183 seniors age 55 and over have signed up to give their time at 43 volunteer sites throughout Pawtucket,Central Falls,LincolnandCumberland.  These seniors put in approximately 6,000 volunteer hours in nursing homes, churches, senior centers, meal sites, historic sites, like Slater Mill, hospitals, along with assisting in educational outreach initiatives, tutoring and mentoring.

        From his office at BVCAP, Petrin along with a part-time staffer determine community needs, design programs, and finally recruit and place RSVP volunteers.  “Our RSVP program is specifically designed to get seniors to become more involved and to have a stake in their community,” he said, noting that the volunteers bring their life experiences and skills to improve the quality of life at the volunteer sites.

         Senior RSVP volunteers are recognized in a newsletter and at an annual recognition dinner, Petrin noted, adding that the event serves as a way for volunteers to share with each other their positive volunteer experiences.

         “One of our newest volunteer stations is atPawtucket’s Slater Mill Historic Site,” Petrin said.  “Now we have two RSVP volunteers who provide information about the historic mill  to visitors. These positions are going to be evolving from providing information into helping with programming and interpretation,” he added.   

       Vin Marzullo, Rhode Island Director of the Corporation for National Service, an independent federal agency responsible for overseeing the nation’s domestic volunteer programs and RSVP states that other RSVP offices are located in Cranston, East Providence, South Kingston, Providence, Kent County and Woonsocket.

       Marzullo stated that volunteer service time is valued at $ 13 per hour.  Thus, he calculates that volunteer service provided by 4,500 Rhode Island RSVP volunteers is valued at $6.5 million.

        RSVP volunteers are playing a tremendous community problem-solving role.   “The reality is our seniors are experienced, knowledgeable of the community and they’ve addressed so many life challenges and situations.  They can help so many people in need if they are given the opportunity, Marzullo said.

        Marzullo firmly believes that RSVP allows older Americans to be valued and continue their contributions to their communities. 

        Herbert P. Weiss is a Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based free lance writer covering aging, medical and health care issues.  This article was published in July 2, 2001 in the Pawtucket Times. He can be reached at hweiss@aol.com