Smith heads county’s RSVP program
There are a lot of services offered to the senior citizens who live in the area, and one organization that stands out are the members of the local RSVP.
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) works with the help of local senior volunteers and is headed by Charles Smith, project director. It is a part of the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission under the umbrella of the Area Agency on Aging.
“Right now we have around 100 volunteers, but we are always looking for more,” Smith said. “There are enough programs who need volunteers that there is always a shortage of those who are willing to volunteer.”
The program is housed in the Escambia County Courthouse Annex and operates out of two rooms in the annex. Smith has the whole county to cover with services and all with the help of one other helper, Betty Queen.
“We are a service organization and try to help with the community.” Smith said. “There are a number of projects that we either run or help to run that benefit the community.“
At this time of the year, perhaps the first project that comes to mind is the tax service for the elderly.
RSVP has 10 volunteers that are IRS certified to help fill out income tax forms for the elderly.
Although filling out income tax forms is something almost everyone has to do, RSVP is ready to step in to help seniors who are age 60 and above.
“This is one of our biggest programs every year,” Smith said. “Last year our workers filled out more than 400 returns in this county and got $311,000 back for our customers. Those seniors who are 60 or older and earn less than $51,000 are eligible for our volunteers to do their tax returns and there is no charge at all for our service. This is one of the best well-known services we offer and this is the time when we are about to get started.”
The team has been trained and will begin the last week in January meeting in Brewton on Monday, Jan. 26 from 9 to 3. They will be back on Wednesday, Jan. 28, meeting at the Brewton Public Library. Thereafter they will be at the library each Monday and Wednesday. They will be in Atmore at the city hall on Tuesdays, at Flomaton Public Library on Fridays and at Poarch on Thursdays. Call the RSVP office at 867-0256 for appointments in Brewton and Flomaton and at 251-368-1032 for Atmore and Poarch. Everyone who uses this service needs to bring, for each member of the household, a picture ID, Social Security number, W-2 forms, information of all deductibles or credits, Federal and State 2013 tax return, bank routing and accounting number and Form 1095 (HHS Marketplace Form-Affordable Care Act).
“We are always needing more volunteers,” Smith said. “Anyone who is 55 years old can be a volunteer and we can train them for the job. There are several advantages to being a volunteer, including being in a state health insurance program.”
In addition to the tax service, RSVP assists in the four senior centers within the county helping with the preparation of meals for the elderly and “Meals on Wheels” for those who are disabled. They are very involved with the community garden that is located at the John L. Fisher Community Center and hope to set up classes for healthy living and a program “A Matter of Balance,” which is helping those who are not as sturdy on their feet as they once were.
Charles Smith has been at the RSVP center for the past four years and in his present position for the past two years. He was born and raised in East Brewton and graduated from W.S. Neal High School in 1979. He has a bachelor’s degree from Huntingdon College and a member of the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission. He also worked at WalMart for a number of years in a managerial position.