Rosemary Scapellati first heard of Troopons two years ago at an RSVP information session at the Wayne Senior Center. Volunteers clip, sort and mail manufacturers’ coupons for food and other items to Support Our Troops in Daytona Beach, Fla., which relays them to U.S. military bases across the world.
The program saves individual military families hundreds of dollars in living expenses.
“I thought, ‘This is really important!’ So I said I’ll do it,” said Scapellati. “‘Thank you for your service’ gets old after a while. This is a way to prove you’re grateful.”
Scapellati is one of about 1,250 volunteers who participated in RSVP programs in 2017. Most of the volunteers come from Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties. Troopons is among dozens of volunteer opportunities offered in RSVP’s Community Links program.
How To Volunteer
“As the needs of the community change, what we offer has changed,” says Margaret Brenner, the Community Links coordinator.
New community volunteer needs are listed by location on the RSVP website, rsvpmc.org (click the Volunteer tab), and include several opportunities for weekend or evening assignments that accommodate volunteers’ varied work and life schedules.
RSVP, a nonprofit organization, offers volunteer information sessions several times each month throughout the area. These public meetings give potential volunteers the chance to discuss their interests with an RSVP staff member familiar with a wide array of community needs and volunteer opportunities.
At the information sessions, “we may give a presentation about our impact and community links programs, tailored to opportunities where we’re visiting. If just one or two people come, then we chat informally, getting to know about the individuals and their interests,” said Brenner.
In addition to the RSVP’s website and the information sessions, potential volunteers can explore opportunities by email at email@example.com or by contacting Marguerite Cunning at 610-834-1040 ext. 123.
For 45 years, RSVP has matched area volunteers with community opportunities. Currently, RSVP-managed Volunteer Impact Programs address specific community needs: child and adult literacy; veterans returning to school; student mentoring and tutoring; seniors needing transportation, shopping assistance or Medicare counseling; and nonprofits seeking expert help.
In addition, RSVP partners with more than 200 agencies. These volunteer opportunities comprise the Community Links program that Brenner coordinates. Roles range from fighting hunger through food pantries and Meals on Wheels to assisting at a thrift shop, hospice service, hotline or area museum.
“Food insecurity is a huge area of volunteer opportunity,” said Brenner. “Hungry is a feeling, but if you’re food-insecure, you face so many difficulties. In addition to Meals on Wheels, our volunteers help out at several food pantries” such as Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Prospect Park or the Loaves & Fishes Food Cupboard in Jenkintown.
“No two food pantries are alike,” said Brenner, “but many now offer food choices, resulting in expanded roles for volunteers. Once qualified, clients get to take a certain number of items from different shelves. One shelf might contain personal care items not covered under food stamps. There is always fresh produce and bread. Some volunteers guide clients through the pantries. Others work behind the scenes, for example stocking shelves when the pantry’s not open.”
Dave Friedman, a retired chemist, spends two hours each Friday delivering meals for the Chester County Food Bank in Exton.
“I pick up the meals late morning and finish up about noon,” he said. “Most clients greet you and want to chat for a short while. At a few stops, you simply leave the meal in an outer room.
“This type of volunteer work is very rewarding, in part because the clients are always very happy to see you,” said Friedman. “They really appreciate your efforts, particularly when the weather outside is not so pleasant. To do this work, you simply need to have a car and the time. Being willing to spend a little time interacting is a big plus. Many live alone and enjoy taking with someone, if only for a minute or two.”
Retired nurse Mickey Abraham volunteers in a different Community Links program. She registers Red Cross blood drive donors at various Montgomery County sites, often near her Elkins Park home.
“I volunteer between two and five times a month,” she said.
“There is often a bit of time to chat with the donors. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the same folks. It’s like encountering old friends,” said Abraham. To succeed at this role “requires a willingness to listen, to be patient and to not share too much of your personal business.”
“There are so many opportunities to meaningfully volunteer,” said Brenner. “For example, Mitzvah Circle offers a wonderful opportunity for a grandparent to volunteer alongside a grandchild.”
The organization delivers care packages of clothing and household goods to help people who have suffered a personal tragedy or crisis.
Under another Community Links program, volunteers write letters to active and retired service men and women, thanking them. RSVP provides the envelopes or postcards.
Other volunteers visit veterans hospitalized at a VA center in Spring City.
“Some volunteers who play musical instruments perform for the veterans,” said Brenner. “Others provide companionship or activities such as crafting.”
To learn more, visit rsvpmc.org or attend an upcoming information session.