With president's pledged support, program will need more volunteers

During President George Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday, he pledged support for an additional 100,000 seniors in 2003 and to strengthen senior service programs.

The additional service of those 100,000 seniors is to help meet homeland security needs and provide a wide range of important services in communities such as tutoring youth, teaching parenting skills to teen parents, mentoring troubled youth, providing in-home respite care with the frail elderly and providing support services to youth formerly in trouble with the law.

What that means locally is more seniors will be needed for the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program to assist with the Home Companion program.

The program offers assistance to homebound persons in need of transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, other personal errands and assistance in their own homes. The purpose of the program is for individuals to keep as much of their independence as possible, while continuing to live in their own homes.

"President Bush promised to have 100,000 more seniors out there in these programs and I'll guarantee you, 50 percent of them will come from RSVP," said Janice Ayres, executive director of Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program, Inc.

The rural county home companions, specifically, volunteered 88,600 hours from Jan. 1, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2001. The program-wide volunteers put in nearly 432,000 hours for the same time period.

Home Companion Program Coordinator Cordy Athena said there are 424 home companion volunteers and 2,075 volunteers in the RSVP for Nevada's rural counties overall. Clark and Washoe counties are not included in these figures.

"Workers are reimbursed for mileage from their home to the client's and for any mileage accumulated while with them, then back to their own home," Athena said.

"They get 24 cents a mile up to $20 a month. They may even take the client to lunch if they wish, but that's included in the $20 limit.

"The worker must be 55 years of age for reimbursement, but volunteers may be younger. The younger volunteers are not reimbursed for mileage or any other expense. But all are covered with auto liability and accident insurance."

Athena said they are always looking for volunteers to assist in the many programs RSVP has to offer.

"Oh, yes. We're always in need of volunteers, but now it will be with this emphasis of helping others do volunteerism," he said.

You Can Help

What: Home Companion Program through RSVP

Where: 501 E. Caroline St., Carson City

Call: 687-4680, Cordy Athena


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