Douglass program connects seniors to community

Mary Hayes, a volunteer with RSVP, works at the Shirley Bomar Building in Hannibal helps prepare meals that are sent home with children after school.

HANNIBAL — Douglass Community Services understands that many older adults want to feel a sense of self worth and make a different in their communities.

The problem is that many are often isolated and have no idea how to make that happen.

Enter the Douglass Community Services RSVP Program, which finds opportunities for people 55 years and older to connect where they are needed.

Douglass Community Services is a member agency for United Way of the Mark Twain Area, which will benefit from the United Way’s 2020-21 Be A Hero campaign.

Stacy Nichols, program director for community outreach with Douglass Community Services, said the RSVP Program allows older people to match their life experiences and interests to organizations and initiatives that need their help.

“We say that RSVP truly is just an invitation to volunteer,” Nichols said.

Beginning in March, complications caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic have made it difficult to find volunteers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that severe illness and death from complications caused by the coronavirus increase with age. Those over age 65 are at the highest risk.

Nichols says, with a better understanding of social distancing, and safe practices, the RSVP program needs volunteering seniors more than ever.

“If you have a specific skill that you want to use, we can help you use that, or however you want to be of use, we can make that happen. You don’t have to commit to eight hours of volunteering every day, that’s the beauty of it” Nichols said.

Starting this month, the RSVP program will be opening a new thrift store located at the Shirley Bomar building, located off of Munger Lane in Hannibal. The money raised at the thrift store will go directly into an emergency fund for individuals in the community. Grants are available for specific needs, but the income from the thrift store is important for emergency situations that grant money cannot foresee.

“The thrift store is taking things that people don’t want anymore, and making it valuable for the community,” Nichols said.

And the thrift store will need volunteers, she said. In addition the store will help Douglass serve people through program services, and give volunteers — particularly senior citizens — a sense of engagement in the community.

“It allows for new friendships and helps to maintain a purpose for getting out of the house every day. This can be beneficial to a senior’s health and can create a better quality of life,” Nichols said. “This type of involvement is what it means to be a part of a caring community.”

Caring for community is a core mission for the United Way of the Mark Twain Area, which serves human needs in Marion, Lewis, Ralls, Monroe and Shelby counties in Northeast Missouri.

“The money from the United Way helps us recruit, train and recognize our volunteers and without their support that wouldn’t be possible,” Nichols said.

The RSVP program will benefit from the United Way’s 2020-21 Be A Hero Campaign. Individuals and groups may give to the Be A Hero Campaign at https:/unitedwaymta.org or mail a donation to P.O. Box 81 Hannibal, Mo. 63401.

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