Our View: Departure of RSVP gives us a chance to step up | TheUnion.com

Our View: Departure of RSVP gives us a chance to step up

It always comes down to money.

That’s the current problem with Nevada County’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, which recruits and assigns people to nonprofits throughout the community.

The program has been in the red for years because a federal grant didn’t provide enough cash to meet its financial needs. RSVP has been dipping into its own general fund to offset a shortfall of almost $50,000 each year.

It was too much to shoulder, leading the grant’s administrator — the Agency on Aging/Area 4 — to forego applying for the grant.

This is a big hit to our community, but one we can overcome through teamwork and perseverance. In fact, plans are already in motion to fill the gap.

To that, we say good job and keep it up.

Nevada County has several nonprofits that do necessary work. Homeless and warming shelters are provided by some, animal welfare by others and food for the needy by another set of groups.

That’s just a small selection of nonprofit groups that serve our community. There are plenty more, and many of them need volunteers.

The loss of the RSVP program isn’t expected to affect some 425 volunteers already placed. However, it will impact recruiting new volunteers. A slowdown or even cessation of new lifeblood could significantly hurt nonprofits.

Thankfully, there’s a few silver linings already peeking through the clouds.

Nevada County has stepped up to fill gaps in the wake of RSVP’s departure. Mike Dent, director of the county’s Social Services Department, is both closing the gaps and looking for a longer term fix for the volunteer program.

Dent pointed to 211 Nevada County — which connects people to services through a website and call center — as one stopgap measure that will answer nonprofit and volunteer questions.

Another fix comes from FREED, which is running the telephone reassurance line. That provides a method for volunteers to reach seniors who are isolated or have health problems.

Additionally, county officials say they’ll continue to pony up $15,000 for future volunteer activities.

In the absence of RSVP, the county is the right entity to take this responsibility. However, it shouldn’t be the only group, or person, that takes this burden.

The loss of this grant money could be the motivation our community needs to ensure the spirit of RSVP continues for years to come. Instead of sitting back and thinking the county will fix this problem, we should use this moment as an opportunity to get involved.

And when it comes to volunteerism, there’s no better time of year to start.

Dent said he plans to ask local nonprofits if they’re interested in running the volunteer program. Several responses could lead to a formal request for proposals.

Money will remain a problem, as it always does. But we hope this sad news about RSVP will reinvigorate a program that not only helps people, but gives our community a chance to volunteer with a wide variety of organizations.

We urge people to contact 211 Nevada County, by dialing 211 or visiting it online, and learn what you can do to help.

And when someone reaches out and asks for your help, be sure to respond, if you please.

The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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