Douglass Community Services holds Senior Corps Programs Recognition Event to honor the contributions of area volunteers

Dozens of volunteers received awards and appreciation for their service in the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and Foster Grandparents classroom programs Wednesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Stacey Nicholas, Community Outreach Initiatives director with Douglass Community Services (DCS), said the Senior Corps Programs encompasses RSVP and the Foster Grandparents program. RSVP includes volunteering with the Super Suppers after-school meal program with the Hannibal Public School District and the YMCA, helping at the Nifty Thrifty Thrift Store and distributing meals for the summer meals program.

Many foster grandparents have positively impacted children's lives in classrooms for more than 20 years, Nicholas said. She welcomed new members to the volunteer “family” of the Senior Corps Programs.

DCS received a $240,000 grant in June 2018 to conduct the Foster Grandparents Classroom Program in Marion, Lewis Pike and Ralls counties. Foster grandparents and RSVP members gave back for many years before coming together as Senior Corps Programs. All of the volunteers' efforts hearken back to the two goals from the inception of Douglass Community Services in 1968, to feed people and provide resources and activities for senior adults, Nicholas said.

“For Douglass, that was the heart of what would become RSVP,” she said. “And some of you have racked up thousands and thousands of volunteer hours. That is amazing and awesome.”

Fellow Community Outreach Initiatives member Aron Lee joined Nicholas in honoring volunteers for their service, including Sharon Walley, who is a member of the RSVP Hall of Fame after volunteering more than 4,000 hours. Other honorees included Patricia Blackwell, Lorna Stookey, Gilda Powell, Marsha Whelan, Morgan Whelan and Denise Damron, executive director of the United Way of the Mark Twain Area. Nicholas also commended volunteers who prepared and distributed more than 18,000 Super Suppers during the year, including Patricia Blackwell, Agnes Roberts, Carolyn Waddell and Vicki Dudding.

Foster grandparents receive training and work with teachers to help a student one-on-one to help meet their personal learning goals, said Carol Bunch, Foster Grandparents Classroom Program coordinator. The feedback is consistently positive, and she recently learned that one of the students received Student of the Month honors, she said. Bunch recognized Fran Lewis as Foster Grandparent of the Year for her years of dedication in the Kindergarten and first grade classrooms at Canton Elementary School.

Twenty-two Foster Grandparents have served during the first year that DCS received a grant for the program, and she said that schools and Head Start programs would have paid $357,172 if it wasn't for the volunteers helping youth from early Head Start through third grade.

Nicholas thanked Sharon Wisdom and Kathy Nicholson for arranging the event, and everyone observed a moment of silence for those who passed away: Mary Fohey, James Lilly and Betty Osborne.

There were many opportunities for volunteers to make a difference, Bunch and Nicholas said. Bunch is recruiting Foster Grandparents for August training and service during the upcoming school year, and DCS has volunteer opportunities available each month for commodities distribution, working in the Douglass Thrift Store and helping with the Super Suppers and Summer Lunch Program.

Contact Douglass Community Services at 573-221-3892 to learn more about the programs or become a volunteer.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com