12/05/12 — Seniors' volunteer program resurrected

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Seniors' volunteer program resurrected

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 5, 2012 1:46 PM

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Samantha Schaneman, right, RSVP administrator, shares with Jamie Livengood, military counselor with Wayne County Public Schools, ideas about mentoring military children whose parents are deployed. Ms. Schaneman, hired to coordinate the RSVP volunteer program for senior citizens through a grant, will also focus on the nutrition program for the elderly in the community.

RSVP, a volunteer opportunity for senior citizens, is back, but with a twist.

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program now has a new director, and targets two ends of the spectrum -- nutrition for the elderly and mentoring services for military children and youth.

The program has had a rich history, both state and nationwide, but the local version was dissolved nearly four years ago.

"It was a very successful program, originally at WAGES, that started in the early '70s and then moved from WAGES to Wayne Community College about 10 years ago," said Dr. Marlee Ray, executive director at WAGES. "A few years ago, they were no longer able to continue with the grant. It really had gotten to the point where it had insufficient funding to sustain itself."

State budget cuts ultimately forced Volunteer Wayne/RSVP, which connected thousands of volunteers with nonprofit and charitable organizations, to close its doors Dec. 31, 2008.

Since that time, the program has been revamped at the national level and the focus has changed. Last year, the Corporation for National and Community Service announced the availability of grant funds to continue the program.

"WAGES has some programs under the Corporation for National and Community Service, and there are three senior programs under that umbrella; WAGES has two of them, Senior Companions and Foster Grandparents," Ms. Ray said. "We applied last spring for the third program, which is the RSVP program, and we were notified in late September/October that they have received that grant.

"We're the only new RSVP grant that was awarded in North Carolina during this grant cycle."

The $147,000 funding covers 18 months but is a three-year grant, which means additional funds will be added to continue the program.

The format now has different parameters, she said.

"This new grant gave us a list of choices of what you could focus on," she said. "It had five areas. We selected two that really match our community needs -- one is health and nutrition for the elderly and mentoring services for military children and youth.

"We felt like these were a good match because we really had the data that we need additional support for nutrition for the elderly."

WAGES oversees the Meals on Wheels program as well as a congregant nutrition program, which currently is offered at senior centers in Mount Olive and Goldsboro.

Hired as administrator of the RSVP program was Samantha Schaneman, who has previous experience with a community action agency like WAGES and a strong military connection.

Her father was in the Navy, she said, she was previously married to a man in the Army and has plans to wed a man in the Air Force, stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB.

As a child, though, she recalls being shuffled around from relative to relative while her dad was deployed.

"I have a lot of heart for the mentoring program," she said "I would just like to see that grow and expand.

"Mentoring is just one part of it. Stability, additional adult role models can really make a difference. We'll explore different areas with that right now, but I think our main focus is going to be on families that have a deployed service member."

Ms. Schaneman's first order of business is getting the word out, which means making contacts within the community.

"Call me. I would love to speak to any organization," she said.

"(Volunteers) have to be 55 and over and have an interest in giving back to the community," added Ms. Ray. "Other than that age requirement, there's no income requirement. And if someone younger calls, we're not going to turn them away, either."

Training will be provided, the women said, and a background check is involved to ensure security of the program.

"For the mentoring program, it's a one-year commitment, a minimum of six months," Ms. Schaneman said. "I would like to have a one-year commitment. They meet once a month for a few hours. I'm hoping to get people to do it once a week, put that consistent face that (the youth) can rely on."

Ms. Ray said her office will work to match the volunteer's interest and schedule, whether it to be as a mentor or working in one of the agency's nutrition programs.

"We felt like, between working with seniors and students, whatever your interest was, we could place you," she said.

"We need 300 volunteers," Ms. Schaneman added. "The 300 is the entire number, but 48 of those are for the military kids and 250 for the meals."

"We need more in the meal delivery because that's so far-reaching," Ms. Ray explained, adding that Brownie Doss, director of Meals on Wheels, uses 40 to 50 volunteers a day and the congregant meals program is also growing, with 65 on the latest rolls.

For more information on RSVP, contact Ms. Schaneman at 919-734-1178 ext. 226 or samantha@wagesnc.org.