Many of our Senior Citizens around South County are in critical need of rides and friendly visitors. U.S. Census data shows that Washington County’s 65 plus population grew by 2.9% between 2010 and 2014. That’s the same percentage of growth for the entire population of the whole county between 2000 and 2010! This means there are many more seniors in need than can be adequately served by the very limited public transportation in our communities.
Luckily, Southern Rhode Island Volunteers (SRIV)—and our volunteers and financial supporters—are able to step in and help our neighbors in need through our independent aging program services. This program offers tangible help to age in place while maintaining independence. A little dedication goes a long way. Each year, SRIV offers seniors in our communities more than 500 free rides to grocery stores and medical appointments. Through Meals on Wheels, we coordinate and deliver approximately 13,780 meals each year to South Kingstown and Narragansett homebound seniors who don’t have another way of getting food. Our volunteers are working at other county locations to deliver Meals on Wheels in Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton, Westerly, North Kingstown and Jamestown; approximately 130 individuals are assisted from those sites providing over 30,000 more meals each year. Additionally, each year, SRIV also transfers more than 23,000 pounds of nutritionally sound food to seniors from local food pantries.
Our friendly volunteers visit our most frail, homebound and Veteran seniors every week. These visits brighten a person’s day, may provide the only human companionship an individual realizes in our rural area, and help make seniors feel more connected to and cared for by our community members. SRIV’s independent aging service is the perfect way to aid in the lives of seniors and show them you care.
Aside from volunteering to provide rides and deliver Meals on Wheels, SRIV is also in need of in-office help. We need staff volunteers to answer the phone to help our senior clients and new volunteers who have requests and concerns. A staff volunteer is the vital connection between the senior in need and the volunteer with availability to help. Internship opportunities in website management, content design, social media team projects, promotion/marketing, fundraising and program service delivery are available with SRIV for local high school and university students. University students will receive course credit, may receive a stipend and gain valuable work experience while beefing up resume skills! There are many ways you can use your talents to serve our Southern Rhode Island communities and the senior residents of the area specifically through SRIV.
SRIV’s amazing volunteers also help with other projects based on skills, interests and individual and community needs. Our volunteers enjoy helping with seasonal events and festivals. This summer, we are offering opportunities to help at the Charlestown Seafood Festival and Washington County Fair. Volunteers at the Seafood Festival will be working the Exit Gate, handing out wristbands for patrons who will be returning to the festival later on the same day. Our volunteers will also be sharing information on volunteer opportunities, senior services, disaster preparedness services, offering door prize chances for participating in a cash raffle (drawing in November 2018) and providing a thank you for attending! At the Washington County Fair, our SRIV volunteers are a major part of the team in the Pomona Kitchen. Volunteers take food orders for the Pomona Kitchen for a 4 hour shift. They also receive a ticket to the Fair for the day of their shift and a free meal from the Pomona Kitchen as a thank you for helping to raise money in support of Meals on Wheels. Pomona makes the donation in honor of our volunteers’ efforts. These are just a couple of great opportunities for community service hours for students who are 16 plus years of age.
Our community partners are also in need of your help. Local nonprofits who help make our communities wonderful places to live need volunteers to make that happen. This summer, some nature refuges need help with trail maintenance and local historical museums need help from docents. There are so many opportunities that touch on a wide variety of interests so there’s a volunteer position for everyone.
So what are the benefits of volunteering?
As well as having a positive impact on others and the community, volunteering has been proven to have many benefits, making volunteers feel happier and healthier. A few include feeling connected to others, a positive impact on your mind and body, and adding fun and fulfillment to your life (Seagal and Robinson, 2018). Our volunteers have reported back that they love what they do and they love the effect that they have on the community and the lives of individuals, especially seniors they help; it makes them feel complete!
SRIV cares about your health and happiness. We want you—join our team, get involved with some wonderful people, promote community volunteering and see where it takes you! Life is a journey so come along!