Seniors in RSVP step forward to help community

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
Over the past 12 years, Nancy Vicino of Bristol has worn a variety of volunteer hats for the Greater Bristol RSVP. From the Imagine Nation Museum to the American Red Cross to Ingraham Manor, Nancy has lended a hand to different local agencies.
Whether doing arts and crafts with children at Imagine Nation or greeting donors at American Red Cross blood drives, Nancy said she has enjoyed contributing to the community as well as keeping busy during her retirement.
“There are so many opportunities in our community to volunteer,” said Nancy, recalling how she has volunteered at Imagine Nation since its doors opened 10 years ago. “You can find things that fit your personality and talents.”
Serving a number of non-profit organizations throughout Bristol, Plainville, Burlington, and Terryville, the Greater Bristol RSVP currently has 230 volunteers who offer services that such organizations could not otherwise afford.  The program recruits and places individuals age 55 and over with local non-profit agencies and organizations. Although the word “retired” is part of its group name, RSVP also has working individuals.
Locally sponsored by the Bristol Community Organization and federally funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, RSVP also is a member agency of the United Way of West Central Connecticut.
Steve Casey of Bristol, one of RSVP’s newer volunteers, decided to give back to the Bristol community after retiring from the information technology field. Besides serving as a driver for Meals on Wheels to deliver food to individuals confined to their homes, Steve also has volunteered at the Plymouth Community Food Pantry where he stocks shelves with perishable and non-perishable items.
“There certainly is a great need,” said Steve, who also volunteers at the Railroad Museum of New England when not volunteering for RSVP. “Service to others has always been a priority of mine. It has been very fulfilling.”
Nancy said RSVP has given her an opportunity to pursue her passion: working with children. A former staff member of Bristol Superior Court’s Family Support Division, Nancy said working with children after retirement sparked her interest after seeing family crises. When she decided to get involved with RSVP, Nancy said she wanted to make a difference in the lives of families. Besides working with children at Imagine Nation, Nancy also has worked with disabled children at Shepard Meadows.
This fall, Nancy will continue working with children, as she has taken on a new role of tutor for Bristol Public Schools. She plans to serve as a reading tutor on a weekly basis, and also will continue the other volunteer work she’s involved in.
“RSVP is an excellent way to get into the volunteering community,” said Nancy, adding how her son also is a volunteer. “I feel like I am contributing, which is important to me.”
Cayer said 246 volunteers last year completed a total of 32,500 hours at 35 different sites. She added RSVP has 11 volunteers well into their 80s who have been in the program for at least 20 years.
Recently, RSVP volunteers were recognized during an event at Nuchie’s for their contributions to local agencies.
Kathy Cayer, project director of RSVP, said, over the years, the focus of RSVP’s work has become more defined, as volunteers have taken on more focus areas in their community. Besides mentoring or tutoring children, volunteers have also committed time to senior centers as well as museums like Imagine Nation. Currently, RSVP is in the process of developing a computer training class. Under that initiative, volunteers will work with the Bristol Housing Authority resident service coordinator to offer basic computer training to those residents. If all goes according to plan, said Cayer, the class will start later this month.
Whether volunteering at Bristol Hospital or delivering food for Meals on Wheels, each volunteer has become a huge part of each organization or agency he or she was placed with, said Cayer, adding that the volunteers are an inspiration.
“They really become a part of that agency,” said Cayer. “Directing RSVP is more than a job, it’s a privilege to facilitate this group of caring problem solvers. RSVP volunteers willingly share their experience, time and talents for the betterment of their community.”
Comments? Email lcapobianco@Bristol Observer.com.