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Senior programs need to be saved

April 1, 2011
By Debbie Basile

Under the legislation H.R. 1, the US House of Representatives passed the resolution that would eliminate the Corporation for National & Community Services. Did you know there are two wonderful federal projects in our county that are being considered for elimination by our federal government? The projects are Chautauqua County RSVP (RSVP) and Foster Grandparent Program (FGP).


The mission of these projects is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. RSVP and FGP engage individuals aged 55 and older in meaningful services to address the critical needs of our community. Volunteers serve at non-profit, educational, or governmental agencies.

At the close of February 2011, RSVP had 941 enrollees who serve at 104 volunteer sites located throughout our county. RSVP recruits, manages, insures, places, recognizes, provides travel assistance as funds permit, and trains the volunteers. RSVP is the place to call when you need volunteers. Management of the 941 volunteers is accomplished by a full-time employee and one part-time employee.

RSVP volunteers provide over 95,000 hours of service annually. Searching the Internet and clicking on www/, you will find in 2009 a volunteer's worth nationally is $20.85. Just a quick calculation shows that Chautauqua County is blessed with a voluntary workforce worth $1,980,750!

FGP, another project of Senior Corps, focuses on working one-on-one with "in-need" children. Foster Grandparents are of modest incomes and receive a stipend of $2.65 per hour. Foster Grandparents work between 15 to 40 hours per week with their assigned children. The site supervisors or teachers identify and assign students who are "in need" of extra attention with a Foster Grandma or Grandpa. Progress reports and assignment plans all document progress, and over all successes of these matches.

At the close of February 2011, the 68 Foster Grandparents enrolled served at 39 individual sites. FGP recruits, trains, manages, insures, places, recognizes, completes both national sex offender and statewide criminal checks, processes payroll, instructs them monthly in topics pertinent to children or themselves, and provides travel assistance. This all is accomplished by one full-time and a part-time employee. FGP provides 60,587 hours of service annually. Once again if you search the internet, this voluntary workforce provided by the Foster Grandparents is worth $1,263,239!


Attached with civic engagement or volunteering comes various intangible health benefits. A study by John Hopkins Medical Institution found that older adults who mentored students in troubled urban schools showed improvements in their physical and cognitive activities. From the AARP Health Care Option - Not only do the volunteers do good for others but it is good for the volunteers. A ten year study suggests that volunteering can have a direct impact on longevity. It has been linked to alleviating chronic pain and lessening depression. RSVP and FGP engages older adults into meaningful, productive service, perhaps deferring their own individual frailty.


Each Foster Grandparent is required to work with a minimum of two children, but some Foster Grandparents work with more. Annually at least 136 "in-need" children will be mentored one-on-one by a Foster Grandparent. If the FGP projects are eliminated, the "in-need" children assigned to Foster Grandparents will not have the set of extra hands or hearts available to them to help them be successful in school.


Through the local sponsorship of RSVP and FGP, the two projects bring over $300,000 of federal dollars to our area, $15,000.00 in state monies, and matching and "in kind" services and funds around $50,000 These dollars are spent here and invested back in to our local economy.

We need to Save Senior Corps!

Debbie Basile is project director for Chautauqua County RSVP and Lutheran Social Services FGP.



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