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On March 17, 2004 Andrea Doll began her job as programs coordinator for the new National Senior Service Corps office in Juneau. The National Senior Service Corps (NSSC) "offers a great opportunity for seniors to be engaged in the community," explains Doll. "We can introduce them to agencies they've never even thought of." NSSC will help seniors find the volunteer position that best fits them. Senior citizens may get connected through three different programs:
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is for people age 55 and older. Seniors are matched with local community organizations, such as the City Museum, Friends of the Library, or St. Vincent de Paul, depending on their interest and unique skills. There is a great variety of organizations to choose from and volunteers can serve from a few hours a month to almost full time if they wish. Senior volunteers receive reimbursement for travel expenses related to their volunteer work.
The Senior Companion Program is geared for healthy individuals, age 60 or over, who wish to help other, more frail seniors with grocery shopping, reading and writing letters, running errands and providing transportation. They can either work in an agency setting, such as the Bridge Adult Day Program or the Pioneers' Home, or directly with seniors in their homes. To be eligible for the Senior Companion Program, one must meet income criteria and undergo a background check and an interview. In turn for their service, Senior Companions receive a stipend of $2.65 an hour (tax free), an annual physical examination and travel and lunch reimbursements.
The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) encourages seniors to reach out to the youth of our community. Foster Grandparents serve as mentors, tutors and friends to at-risk children and youth with special needs through a variety of settings. The Head Start Program, Harborview Elementary School, the Johnson Youth Center, Big Brother/Big Sisters, and the Boys and Girls Club are some of the agencies currently making good use of senior volunteers. Like the Senior Companion Program, the FGP is for seniors 60 and over who meet income guidelines. All applicants must undergo a background check and an interview. Foster grandparents also receive a tax exempt stipend of $2.65 per hour and an annual physical examination.
"We are particularly looking for seniors to work with special needs kids," said Andrea Doll. Doll, who was a teacher much of her life, is excited at the many ways seniors can provide meaningful support to these children. "It's so important to be there for them, in the role of a grandparent, as a friend, someone they can turn to."
In addition to pairing a senior volunteer with a "work station" which best fits them, the NSSC staff will take the volunteer to the station chosen by the volunteer and introduce them. The work station will provide supervision and training for the volunteer. Once a month, all the senior volunteers get together for in-service training, support and lunch with a speaker. Here, they have a chance to talk about concerns or questions related to their volunteer work.
Interested senior citizens are encouraged to call Doll at 723-3897. "I have nothing but admiration for seniors," she confesses. I'd be honored for them to join with us and participate."
Marianne Mills oversees senior citizen nutrition and transportation programs in Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Yakutat as a staff member of Southeast Senior Services, a program of Catholic Community Service. CCS assists all persons regardless of their faith.