RSVP needs help

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Features Editor

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is feeling the pinch of cutbacks and its director is screaming, "Ouch!"

Tammy Lockley said the RSVP program has been cut back to the bare bones and there is no where else to cut except personnel.

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"Our federal grant mandates that the RSVP director is full-time, so the only place left

that we can cut is our volunteer coordinator/van driver," Lockley said. "Even

if we can make it by cutting her back to part-time, our volunteers will be adversely affected.

Lockley said cuts in state funding and by the United Way have hampered operation of the RSVP program, but the cuts that have hit hardest are those by the Pike County Commission.

"State funding has been reduced slightly and, because the United Way has not reached its goal in several years, our funding from them has been cut in half – from $3,000 to $1,500," she said. "But, what has just really knocked us off our feet is our being totally cut out by the county commission. Of course, we’re not alone. All 15 agencies usually funded by the commission have been cut out and it’s hurting all of the agencies and everyone who is served by them."

Lockley said the loss of $8,000 in local funding means a cutback in services in many different areas for the RSVP program.

"We have 500 active volunteers who donate more than 300,000 hours a year to their communities," she said. "Our volunteers are out in the county almost every day providing some kind of service. That service may be with the Red Cross or Hospice, at Edge Regional Medical Center, Pike Manor Health Care Center, one of the assisted living facilities,

the nutrition centers in Brundidge and Troy, the Colley Senior Complex, the Pioneer Museum or doing community service in their own neighborhoods."

It is there, in their on neighborhoods, that many hours of service are performed by RSVP volunteers, – taking neighbors to doctors’ appointment, grocery shopping, to dialysis, to get prescriptions filled.

"A hundred different ways," is how Lockley described community service provided

by the RSVP volunteers.

"The ‘America Reads’ program is sponsored through RSVP and we have 89 tutors who are working in our schools to help

children in grades K-3 improve their reading skills," she said. "The success of the program is outstanding. The students who have been tutored through our program have shown at 58 percent improvement it their reading assessment scores. Our volunteers are doing the world of good and, now, we’re going to have to cut back on what they do because of a lack of funding."

The mandates of the federal grant that supports the RSVP program require that all volunteers are covered by secondary accident policies, liability policies and secondary auto policies.

"All of that is expensive and it could get

to the point that we are not able to transport our volunteers from station-to-station and all of those people they serve would suffer," Lockley said. "Volunteers are the backbone of our community. They provide valuable services and we need them desperately.

"In all the 18 years I’ve been with the program, we have never had our funding totally cut out by the county commissioners. They have said they are looking for a solution, it’s time for them to come up with some kind of solution. I think those who work with the other 14 agencies are also wondering, how and when. That’s the question we have – how and when?"