Despite the ongoing pandemic and the cold of winter, seniors can still step forward to help people of all ages in our local communities by volunteering through the AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP of Cape and the Islands.
The group is always looking for volunteers who must be over 55, says Stefanie Paventy, the local director of AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP, based in South Dennis.
Currently, RSVP is collecting items that will be given to first responders in Dennis on this Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 17. Volunteers have been loading gift baskets which they will deliver that day. The group is still looking for non-perishable items such as hand warmers, Chapstick, granola bars and gift cards for items such as pizza.
In addition, a quilters group based in a West Barnstable church has been sewing teddy bears for first responders, “in case they come across a child on the job,” Paventy says. “It’s another way to comfort the kid.” Last year the quilters sewed face masks for the pandemic.
AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) is a national program sponsored locally by Elder Services of Cape Cod & Islands Inc. It bills itself as one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for those over 55. On the Cape, RSVP volunteers can be found at 60 organizations including local schools. Over 400 local volunteers serve in three programs — Adults Benefiting Children, Friends and Neighbors and Senior Environment Corps.
Adults Benefiting Children members tutor students in math, science and literacy in grades kindergarten through 12. Volunteers also assist teachers, lead book and math clubs and provide enrichment activities.
Due to the pandemic, tutors can no longer go into the schools, and remote learning is not currently taking place. “We’re trying to figure out how to help at-risk students,” Paventy says. “We’re developing a plan to be independent of the schools.” This might revolve around sending tutors to local libraries to work one-on-one or in groups tutoring students in math and literacy.
“Fingers crossed it will start sooner than later,” she says about the tutoring.
Friends and Neighbors volunteers help people in the community by driving them to medical appointments, delivering healthy meals, providing companionship and even building houses through Habitat for Humanity builds, either working in construction or bringing in snacks. Other volunteers work in Habitat’s ReStore in South Yarmouth. Some volunteer at local food banks.
And the Senior Environment Corps works on projects that monitor, protect, restore and maintain Cape Cod’s environment by partnering with over 25 environmentally-based organizations.
The Senior Environment Corps will be up and running soon. In the spring the group will clear trails and remove invasive species from areas. “We always have something going on,” Paventy says. In addition, coast sweep programs were recently conducted. Volunteers choose a beach and collect trash and debris. All trash is tracked, because the state collects data on beach trash.
Some other RSVP volunteer activities this year included an annual fund drive for veterans on Sept. 11. Everything collected went to the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center, a nonprofit in Hyannis. Items were collected through a drive-through food drive that was established due to the pandemic. “It worked out so well,” Paventy says, that it was extended with drive-through locations in several places spread across the Cape. The donations were brought to the RSVP office, packed and driven to Hyannis.
In addition to other activities, each wintertime the Cape and Islands RVSP program hosts a free education series focused on a local environmental topic and running from January to March for both volunteers and the public. The film and speaker program was originally started because many outdoor environmental programs go dormant in the winter months. The good news is that during this time when the omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading, the programs are virtual.
On Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. “Spinnaker” will be shown. The actual Spinnaker was a humpback whale who was entangled four times in a decade. Her skeleton is on permanent display at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown. The 13-minute documentary by Nadine Licostie tells “the bittersweet story of her life and loss and the bravery of those who tried to save her.” She has come to represent “the delicate balance of marine life in Cape Cod Bay and the great oceans beyond,” according to the Center for Coastal Studies website.
On Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. Marine Animal Entanglement will be the topic of a live presentation by the Center for Coastal Studies. The presentation will further explain the life of Spinnaker. A question and answer session on marine wildlife will follow.
To register as a participant for these Winter Education Series events, call Alberto Martinelli at 508-394-4630, extension 524, or email Alberto.Martinelli@escci.org.
To volunteer for Senior Corps RSVP call Paventy at 508-394-4630, ex. 520.