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Front Page » November 4, 2004 » Carbon Senior Scene » Doing what they love
Published 3,557 days ago

Doing what they love


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By KEN LARSON
Sun Advocate publisher

As a retired teacher, Dorothy Fry still finds ways to help Carbon County youth through the RSVP program.

Carolyn Birch is doing what she loves and talking about things she knows a lot about, Carbon County history.

A resident of the county her entire life, she is a coal miner's daughter and grew up in Rains, a coal camp on top of Spring Canyon. So now in retirement she can't think of a better job than to talk about coal, history and Carbon County.

Her first 18 years was spent in Rains where her father worked as a miner.

"My dad planted a pine tree in front of our house in Rains and it's still there," she stated.

Once a week Carolyn comes to work at the Helper Museum and talks to tourists and guests about the historic mining and railroad communities of Carbon County.

Carolyn is one of over 100 volunteers that works with the Retired Senior volunteer Program (RSVP), a program that invites adults age 55 and over to use their life experience and skills to answer the call of their neighbors in need.

"We invite older adults to put their experience to work solving problems close to home," commented Rebecca Mason, director of the program.

Recovering from a stroke, Carolyn loves talking to people and telling them about the history of mining. She was a board member of the museum in Helper when it moved to the present location and has volunteered on and off for over 20 years. As she walked through the museum she pointed out many items that she has contributed to the displays over the years. Some were family pieces, others she has picked up at garage sales over the years. Remembering back she has fond thoughts of the coal camp at Rains as 'one big family'.

"We didn't care about one's nationality or religion, we just cared about each other," she said.

Dell Cloward and Genevieve Sandoval have donated endless hours to the Carbon County food bank.

She stared into a picture of the bathhouse just down from the mine entrance and reminisced a minute about as a child she would wait at the entrance of the bathhouse for her dad to come out and share with her a half a jam sandwich every afternoon.

"By volunteering, it helps me stay active and in touch with my past," she pointed out. "It was so long ago and then it was just yesterday."

Mason explains that whether its teaching children or adults to read, visiting the home bound, creating a recycling program, or providing much needed support to non-profit agencies, RSVP volunteers are making their communities stronger by giving anywhere from one to 30 hours per week, RSVP volunteers help solve serious problems in their communities.

Another volunteer is Dorothy Fry, who was recognized by the Carbon County School District last spring as volunteer of the year. She retired from teaching in 1993 after 24 years in the classroom. But she went right back into the schools as a volunteer and has been there ever since. At the time, her granddaughters were in elementary school and she wanted to help their teachers one day a week. And now, 11 years later, even though the girls are in junior and senior high school, Dorothy still goes to the classroom and volunteers.

"I have seen a lot of changes since I taught," said Fry, explaining that teachers have so many more responsibilities. "It wasn't as intense when I taught and I wasn't required to administer so many tests and attend so many workshops."

Part of her function now is to help the teachers administer tests to children, some of them every week. She also helps out in the third grade classroom and the resource room.

According to Mason, getting involved is the key to RSVP.

"Your hard work can solve serious problems, and you will get back even more than you give," she explains.

Mason said that volunteers receive customized volunteer placements, and are given the opportunity to use their experience and skills, as well as learn something new every day.

Besides, they get supplemental accident, liability and excess auto insurance, mileage reimbursement to and from the volunteer site, ongoing recognition for their efforts and the satisfaction of knowing they are making a difference.

Another perfect example are two volunteers who work with the food bank in Price. Dell Cloward and Genevieve Sandoval show up almost every day to assist with distributing food through the food bank. Cloward has spent the past 18 years, while Sandoval has been there for over 10 years. Together, they put in hundreds of hours a year doing everything from running the fork lift, unloading trucks, making drops and working with clients.

Almost all the work done at the food bank is volunteer labor. Dondra Nance, regional coordinator, explains that volunteers like Cloward and Sandoval pretty well ensure that the program runs smoothly.

Carolyn Birch's volunteer time at the Helper Museum keeps her active as well as in touch with the past.

"They have big hearts and some days, depending on the time of the year, they work here all day," she indicated.

Sandoval said they see both sides of generosity.

"We see the families who benefit from the food and it makes me feel so good to see the people we are helping," she explained. "But I see the others who donate the food and work so hard to help the less fortunate in the community."

RSVP Volunteers in Carbon County have mentored and tutored youth, assisted at health clinics, visited the home bound, worked in the hospitals, helped build affordable housing, educated the public in local museums, helped with community gardens and been involved in one-time community events, remarked Mason.

RSVP volunteers are over 55 years of age, volunteer at least a few hours a month and enjoy working with others to solve community problems.

Mason said that today's older adults are busy, productive people.

"After retirement, many RSVP volunteers want to keep active in ways that make a difference for those in need," she adds.

Carbon County RSVP volunteers, like Fry and Birch will tell residents that volunteering within their community is both deeply rewarding and extremely satisfying.

Mason explains that in addition to the enjoyment that they receive through volunteering, RSVP volunteers are recognized annually for their contribution to the community, provided with excess insurance, and reimbursed for their mileage if needed. At this year's Volunteer Recognition, volunteers were congratulated for putting a combined total of 30,000 hours of service back into their community.

"RSVP volunteers are extremely special people and deserve to be thanked everyday for the wonderful things that they do for our community," concluded Mason.

She hopes that anyone who is interested in volunteering will call her at 637-9118 to get involved.



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November 4, 2004
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