MARQUETTE - Amy Mattson's job has brought some extra joy to her life.
Mattson has been the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program's director in Marquette County since June.
"It's so fun," she said. "Working with seniors is a joy. They offer such a different perspective. It's hard to be frustrated when you're working with someone whose life has been such a battle and they're still so positive."
Four local Retired and Senior Volunteer Program participants received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award recentlyfor accumulating at least 4,000 hours of volunteering. From left are Beverly Kent, Elizabeth Lundin, RSVP director Amy Mattson, Joyce Soma and Joan Zbacnik. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Mattson, who grew up in downstate Roscommon, came to Marquette to attend Northern Michigan University. It was there she met her husband, Darryl. They've been married for 11 years and have two sons, Nicholas, 8, and Jacob, 6, and live in Ishpeming.
Darryl and Amy are leaders of Cub Scout Troop 321.
"I spent seven years at home with the kids," she said. "I took this position (with RSVP) in June. Before that, I had worked in adult day services. When this opportunity came along, it was a better fit for more."
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Marquette County:
A program of Marquette County Aging Services, funding comes through the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, the Corporation for National Service, United Way and state and national foundations.
RVSP formed in 1969 at the national level by Action, the federal domestic volunteer agency. It was brought to Marquette County in 1990.
All women and men ages 55 and older who are interested in volunteering within Marquette County are invited to join. There are no membership fees and no income restrictions.
To enroll in the program, a person completes an enrollment form, then meets with the RVSP director. From there, a meeting is set up between the volunteer and the agency for which the person would like to serve.
For more information, call the RVSP office at 226-4180 or 226-4184.
Mattson said she has been impressed with the program's volunteers.
"The willingness to help from seniors is incredible," she said. "They're willing to help even people they don't know. It's very rewarding and fulfilling to work with them."
RSVP uses the talents of area residents ages 55 and up who are willing to share their skills, experiences and abilities to deal with community needs.
"So many non-profits (agencies) couldn't afford to hire people to work to do what RSVP volunteers do," Mattson said.
The volunteers help with all sorts of community groups, from the Alzheimer's Association to local schools to hospitals.
"The social, emotional aspect of putting seniors out in the community is so important," Mattson said. "We have a huge list of programs that we're involved with and I know our seniors enjoy knowing they are valued. They are willing to get out there to help and that's a wonderful thing."
Mattson herself was surprised at the length of the list of organizations for which RSVP provides volunteer help.
"There are 72 programs right now that we work with," she said.
For those interested in becoming involved, the process is simple.
"They need to have the desire, first," Mattson said. "While providing transportation for other seniors is part of it, there is much more to RSVP. There are really a lot of different kinds of opportunities."
For example, there are crafters who volunteer with RSVP who knit or sew at home.
"We have people who are more limited with their mobility," she said. "So we take bulk mailings to them and they do those from home.
"Really, our volunteers can be as active as they want to be," Mattson said. "There's a chance for everybody to find something they'd like to do. I get excited when I see the programs we could get involved in."
Last year, 289 RVSP volunteers donated 47,511 hours to some 70 volunteer locations throughout Marquette County. One of the most requested services is for transportation.
"The need for that is great among seniors, from the west end of the county, especially," she said. "Sometimes it's hard for people to make connections. We have that resource here for seniors and it's free.
"We literally have volunteers who need to be called. They're waiting to help."
For more information on RVSP of Marquette County, call 226-4180.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.