The other day, my husband lovingly referred to me as “The Connector.” He is convinced that I have never met a stranger – only a future friend – and he might be right about that.
I often find myself engaging complete strangers in fascinating conversations. I believe that people don’t meet by accident; each person is meant to cross our paths for a reason. Through my interactions with others, I am constantly connecting people who have something that would mutually benefit both of them. One of the many ways I connect people is through an exciting new Oasis partnership.
In 2014, the Oasis Institute received federal funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to sponsor the Senior Corps: Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and neighboring St. Charles County.
Nationally, RSVP engages more than 296,000 adults, ages 55 and older, in a diverse range of volunteer activities. Anyone who is 55 and older with a desire to become more involved in the local community and share his/her skills and talents can become an RSVP volunteer. There are no educational, income, or experience requirements, nor any dues or membership fees to join. Adding RSVP to the Oasis intergenerational programs has provided numerous benefits to school districts, various community organizations, and to the volunteers themselves. Registered volunteers receive free supplemental accident insurance while volunteering and special invitation-only educational activities.
The Oasis model provides a unique opportunity for Senior Corps volunteers to connect with children through the intergenerational volunteer programs and use their lifetime of skills and experience to make a difference.
Phyllis Wuertz, an Oasis RSVP tutor in the City of St. Charles, recently shared how she has connected with the students she tutors. “There is no greater gift in life than working with children, stimulating their creative juices, sparking their spontaneity, and observing the world through their eyes," Phyllis says. "Learning is an interactive process which requires one-on-one communication between human beings. Even though today's youth seem to spend far too much time on digital screen entertainment, children still treasure the simple joys of hearing a story read to them; receiving individualized attention…a listening ear…a time of structure, assurance, and consistency, where they feel special."
May 18 – 22, 2015 is celebrated as National Senior Corps Week and is an opportunity to salute RSVP volunteers. To honor this special celebration, the Corporation for National and Community Service created a pledge for Senior Corps volunteers that promises to: “bring Americans of all generations together to strengthen our communities and use my lifetime of experiences to improve my community and myself through service. I am a Senior Corps RSVP volunteer, and I will get things done.”
And get things done they have! In the St. Louis area, over 180 volunteers have already chosen to be part of the Oasis RSVP program just in the past 10 months. These tutors and activity coordinators have logged an impressive 6,400 hours in service at 50 different community sites.
Oasis and Senior Corps RSVP are a national connection—bridging the generations through volunteer service.
From the Elizabeth Pawloski, aka "The Connector," serves as RSVP Coordinator for Oasis.