RSVP honors volunteers

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A program that began in 1963 issued a call to older and retired Americans to step up to assist others by becoming a volunteer. That idea has grown and blossomed in Escambia County bringing its members together Tuesday for an opportunity to recognize the value of the volunteer.
Escambia County RSVP Director Amy Cooley told the volunteers and guests attending the annual event that volunteerism isn’t just about helping people today, but by making a difference in their lives forever.
“What you do makes a difference for that person for the rest of their lives,” Cooley said. “When you go to the center to share a meal or you go to do taxes you make a difference for that person. I applaud you and thank you for what you do so selflessly. Today we are celebrating you and the wonderful things you have done.”
RSVP Volunteer Coordinator Charles Smith expressed his appreciate to the volunteers as he rose to honor the top volunteer of the year.
“We are fortunate to have a special volunteer that has stepped out and gone that extra mile,” Smith said. “We are honored to name Bill Walker our volunteer of the year.”
Walker, who did not attend the event, has been instrumental in educating students, community residents and senior volunteers on the beauty and joy of gardening, Smith said.
“Bill has been with RSVP for several years and has worked very hard on the community garden program now in place,” Smith said. “He has been instrumental in getting the program off to a better start and by working in an education program with the students and others who have volunteered in the program. He has been there as a teacher and has carried on classes with students covering all the aspects of gardening from planting to harvest. Those lessons were also taught to many members of the community and other volunteers with our program.”
Although volunteering with the community garden program was listed as his main avenue of participation with RSVP, Smith said Walker has also provided beauty by gifting vases of flowers around the area.
“Bill, and his wife Jan, have a yard full of flowers and they make an effort to cut them and put them in a vase to deliver around town,” Smith said. “By being selfless and doing things for others, Bill is a prime example of what a volunteer is all about. We are pleased to honor him for his service to others.”
Smith said the volunteers who participate with RSVP are generous with their time and support, but more help is needed.
“We are in need of more volunteers,” Smith said. “Many people in our communities already volunteer and may not realize it. By joining with RSVP, there are benefits to the community, the volunteer and to our organization. When you volunteer, you aren’t volunteering for RSVP, you are volunteering for your community and for the people around you. RSVP is only a funnel for those programs.”
Ruth Harrell, chair for the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, gave her thanks to county and community volunteers for service that has had far-reaching impacts across the area.
“This is a great organization,” Harrell said. “It’s great to be a resident of Escambia County where we have tremendous resources and that includes RSVP. The most rapidly growing age group is the over 60 crowd. I am in those ranks and I’m thankful that the Lord has graced us with the power to volunteer. The idea of servant hood goes way back — Jesus himself commissioned us to be servants. To reach out to others is to be a servant. Thank you for your service. What you have done for this county is beyond description. When the Lord hands out crowns, there will surely be a crown for volunteers in Escambia County.”

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