Sisters in Service
Seniors programs make a difference
Viki Bowman and Rebecca Mason share one incredible passion. They have devoted their careers to Carbon County senior citizens.
Currently both Bowman and Mason work for sister organizations serving Carbon county. Bowman serves as the program manager for a brand new program to this area, Volunteers of America, Utah Foster Grandparents program.Mason has served as the director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program for the past four years.
Bowman, who served 17 years with the local Retired Senior Volunteer Program and another four and a half years as executive director of the Price Senior Center bring a vast knowledge to her new position having served seniors in this area for over 20 years.
The RSVP program has been going on in Carbon County for 31 years.
Mason has always worked in the non profit fields for 10 years. She wrote the VISTA grant for Habitat for Humanities affiliates throughout the state of Utah. She was also program manager for the Helper Main Street project when it was first launched.
Both programs are sponsored by the National Senior Corps of the Corporation for National Service. This is a network of programs that helps adults age 55 and older find volunteer opportunities to help strenthen communities. The Senior Corps includes the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, the Foster Grandparent Program and the Senior Companion Program.
Foster Grandparents: Win, win program
Every day in communities across America, foster grandparents are the people children in need depend on for love wisdom and support. This past Tuesday Carbon County joined these communities and its first volunteer grandparent went into the classroom to begin her role to help area children develop skills, confidence, and strength to succeed in life.
Volunteers of America, Utah heads up the Foster Grandparents program and Viki Bowman serves as the program manager.
Bowman, who served 17 years with the local Retired Senior Volunteer Program and another four and a half years as executive director of the Price Senior Center, explains that the Foster Care Program makes communities stronger by helping children with special needs achieve their goals. The local program serves the four-county area of Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan. She started the program locally in November and once the manuals and guidelines were in place and the office set up she embarked on networking with area schools. In the short period of time she has volunteers working in the Green River Community Center before and after school program and Tuesday was orientation day for the first Carbon county volunteer.
One of Bowman's favorite quotes from a senior who didn't think they could read well enough or help out with modern math was, "It doesn't take an education to love a child."
The program is designed to place low income seniors in schools, hospitals, drug treatment centers, correctional institutions, Head Start and day care centers. They work one-on-one with children who may be falling behind. Often they read with the children, help them understand directions, keeping focused on their assignments and assist anyway they can.
Bowman explained that each school and each child sets its own standards for the program based on the children's needs and the grandparent's skills.
Volunteers of American was established in 1896 and provides every type of human service program imaginable, including adoption, nursing homes, home less, and youth. It was first coined Volunteers of America because its founders saw people coming forward to volunteer to help these social causes. The Foster Grandparents program is one of nine Volunteers of America program in Utah and the first entry into Carbon county.
According to Jeff St. Romain, president and CEO of the Volunteers of America program in Utah, its a "Win, win situation for the community."
He explained that they recruit seniors who make a certain level of income and give them a small stipend to work with children at risk. The service then is meeting the needs of both the seniors and the students.
Funding for the program comes from a federal agency that is called The Corporation for National and Community Service.
Volunteers of America is a ministry of service organized to reach and uplift those in greatest need and to provide opportunities to experience the joy of serving others. It is an interdenominational Christian Church which serves people of all faiths and invites the people of all faiths in their work. According to their mission statement they measure their success in positive change in the lives of individuals and communities they serve.
Judy Voda, the first Carbon county volunteer completed her orientation Tuesday and began her training program. All foster grandparents receive monthly training, an annual physical examination, supplemental insurance, a small stipend for those that qualify, help with meals and transportation costs, and the joy of knowing they're making a difference for children.
Children who need foster grandparents gain the individual attention they might not otherwise receive, confidence from the faith the senior has in them, tutoring to help them succeed in school, the advice and life skills they need to lead productive lives and the life-changing opportunity to know the consistent love of a foster grandparent.
In Carbon county the Volunteers of America, Utah program of foster Grandparents is located at 90 North First East, that's the community building in downtown Price, room 141. Their phone number is 613-0987.
RSVP: Combining life and skills
Today's older adults are busy, productive people. After retirement, many people use their experience to tutor and mentor children, council small businesses, assist at health clinics, care for hospice programs and teach other seniors how to use the Internet. Others distribute food to area's homebound and some volunteer to work at the museum. They want to keep active in ways that make a difference for those in need. This has been going on in Carbon County for 31 years through a program known as RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program). And this past year with over 225 volunteers they racked up a record 32,000 volunteer hours.
"They are making a real difference," says the program director Rebecca Mason, who has headed the agency for the past four years.
RSVP invites adults age 55 and over to use their life experiences and skills to answer the call of their neighbors in need. Mason explains that the program is set up around the seniors' schedules. Volunteers work as they can. Some work 40 hours a month, others work two hours a month. "We cater to our volunteers and they pick the time, place and capacity in which they are best suited for. A lot of seniors choose jobs in areas they have a passion for or areas that have affected them most. Mason explains that the many hospice volunteers have seen what hospice has done for their families and they want to give back. Passions often lie in areas where they have had experience, but sometimes seniors want to expand and do things they had always dreamed of doing. One example is volunteeering at the Mining Museum in Helper. The museum would not be open if it weren't for the many volunteers over the years that provide manpower to assist in tours and research.
Mason has always worked in the non profit fields. She wrote the VISTA grant for Habitat for Humanities affiliates throughout the state of Utah and oversought the program. She was also program manager for the Helper Main Street project when it was first launched.
RSVP's biggest challenge is recruiting new volunteers. "There are always more opportunities to serve than we have people for," explains Mason, who says that we have over 30 different sites that need volunteers. "The more recruiting we do the bigger difference we make in the community." One of the biggest needs is mentoring children. Currently volunteers are helping out in classrooms in several elementary schools.
And Mason also pointed out that they are always looking for additional funding, especially for recognition of their volunteers. A couple times a year volunteers are honored for their work. One is during volunteer week in April where they thank the many people for their hard work. The other opportunity is in October when RSVP hosts an open house. This gives them an additional opportunity to thank workers, train them and recruit new people.
Some volunteers have clocked in with over 12,000 hours during a lifetime of serving the community. One area where a lot of hours have been recorded are the pink ladies that serve Castleview Hospital.
Areas that need additional volunteers include the Children's Justice Center, PAWS program, Community Nursing Hospice Program, and in the classrooms helping students read and study.
Mason also pointed out several new programs including Circle of Friends, a program where seniors call fellow seniors who are homebound. They make the call just to check on their fellow senior's well being and if there are any specific needs. Another brand new program is an emergency preparedness program helping people with disabilities.
Last year at the award's banquet in April one senior who was recognized for her efforts put it very simply, "I do this because I get to know people, stay active, and stay young."