693 retirees won’t stop volunteering

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If it was an act of nature that Verteal “Vertie” Patterson wanted for her 77th birthday, then the Lord outdid himself June 6 with a downpour that brought traffic to a standstill and in minutes turned roads into running rivers.

It was brief and it was awesome, followed by lots of sun that dried everything out.

Vertie didn’t get wet, nor did the more than 90 seniors who turned out for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) recognition lunch at the West Valley Country Club. She was seated alongside Charles Dress, 81.

The two have worked together for years bringing their activism to the State House to advocate for legislation and on reviving the Warwick AARP. Their work has won them recognition and awards, but that’s not why they do it.

Neither is recognition the motivation of others at the luncheon.

RSVP director Tanish Simpson said program members volunteer from four to 160 hours a month to assist with a wide cross section of services, from transporting people to medical appointments to simply checking in on somebody who may be living alone. There are RSVP programs at Pilgrim, Coventry and East Greenwich Senior Centers. In total, Simpson said, there are 693 RSVP members located at 70 sites within the Westbay Community Action Program.

“This is my baby, I love it,” she said of the program she’s run for seven years in addition to overseeing several other Westbay programs.

At Friday’s event, certificates were awarded in recognition of the time members have contributed to the program with Florence Bradley receiving one for 25 years of service.

“It’s our way of saying thank you,” Simpson said of the luncheon and DJ music that followed.

Simpson named just a few of the many services provided by RSVP members including working on the Westbay Farm, mentors through the Mentor RI program, working in the clothing collaborative, the “telecare buddies” where volunteers are paired with someone who could use the companionship and helping match veterans to services.

Medical drivers are high on the list.

“We always need them,” Simpson said.

Locally, the former Warwick Community Action, now Westbay, started RSVP in the 1970s. Members are 55 years and older. The eldest in the program at this time is 96, said Simpson.

Simpson said she interviews possible volunteers before matching them with a nonprofit or activity. She noted that while volunteers may have had a career in education, for example, it doesn’t mean they should be working with students. What she looks to do is to pair volunteers with a personal passion or interest so that the experience is as rewarding to them as it is to those they are helping.

She urged those interested in learning more about RSVP to call her at 921-5350.

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