PORTHENRY-The future of the Essex County Retired & Senior Volunteer Program is in doubt.
The Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes federal funding for RSVP, will be eliminated if proposed legislation is approved. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill, 235 to 189, to eliminate the agency, which includes the AmeriCorps public-service program, as well as Senior Corps, the program that funds RSVP. The Senate is yet to act on the budget reduction measure.
RSVP also faces loss of state support.
"The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program is in serious danger," said Barb Brassard, Essex County RSVPexecutive director. "RSVP, along with other human service programs, is slated for zero funding under the federal and New York State budgets.
"They (legislators) don't realize the impact these programs have," she added. "The bang they get for their buck is great. Without our programs, senior citizens will lose the ability to live in their own homes. Studies have shown that volunteers are healthier and happier individuals.
"RSVP is in grave jeopardy," Brassard stressed.
RSVPvolunteers do great service for the community, Brassard pointed out. They drive others to doctor appointments, assist seniors buying groceries, aid with Meals-on-Wheels deliveries, tutor and mentor. They volunteer in schools, libraries, hospitals and nursing homes. Volunteers knit and crochet hats, scarves, mittens, and blankets for underprivileged children and folks in nursing homes.
During the 2009-10 RSVPfiscal year, 371 volunteers worked at 83 stations, logging more than 55,500 hours in Essex County.
Brassard said RSVPis especially important is Essex County, the state's second-largest county and one of its least populated.
"The distance to populated areas can be long and the isolation can be a problem," she said. "Thus the mission of RSVP is to engage residents 55 and older in our volunteer program so they may serve other seniors and non-profit organizations (stations) as well. These stations would be hard-pressed to survive without this help. In volunteering, the senior receives not only self-satisfaction but makes them a healthier, happier person. It also works to keep them and the others they serve in their own homes and out of nursing homes."
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said cutting funds for RSVPis shortsighted. The program, he said, actually saves government money.
"The RSVP program provides thousands of hours of community service for many of our residents,"Scozzafava said. "Although I realize that government needs to make cuts, many programs such as RSVP actually save tax dollars. Without this program, many people will have to find other ways to receive the many valuable services that RSVP provides.
"RSVP provides services for our senior population, nursing homes, nutrition sites, museums, visitors centers, hospitals, Head Start programs, food pantries, youth bureau, Meals on Wheels, elementary schools, libraries, Literacy Volunteers and many more services that people depend on," he said. "We, as elected officials, need to make cuts, but we also need to look carefully at to what we are eliminating.
"I believe that without RSVP, at the end of the day, any perceived savings will disappear with increased costs in other government funded programs," Scozzafava said.
The possible funding cuts amount to about 70 percent of the Essex County RSVPbudget, Brassard said. Without the state and federal money, local RSVP will shut down, she said.
The RSVP program in Essex County consists of Brassard and a part-time assistant working from an office at the Moriah Town Hall.