Budget Cuts Threaten Volunteer Services

8 years 6 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, March 23 2011 Mar 23, 2011 Wednesday, March 23, 2011 2:24:00 PM CDT March 23, 2011 in News
By: Stuart Downing
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FULTON - Managers at a Callaway County volunteer network said Wednesday the latest round of federal budget cuts threatens to defund many of the programs that organize local volunteers. SERVE, Inc. fears it may not be able to give back like it used to.

SERVE managers said H.R.1, this year's federal appropriations bill, would completely cut funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS oversees several programs including AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Learn and Serve America.

SERVE oversees the CNCS programs in Callaway County. Retired & Senior Volunteer Programs (RSVP) is one division of SERVE. RSVP Director Mary Gordon said RSVP would lose around 70% of its funding. Without that funding, Gordon said both the community and the senior volunteers would suffer.

"Seniors who volunteer have better health issues, less depression, they stay active, and what they're doing for others is benefitting the community," Gordon said.

Gordon said without RSVP, some volunteers may still show up without being coordinated, but in the long run, volunteers need networks like RSVP to be truly effective.

"When you don't have someone out there recruiting volunteers and telling them the needs in our community....eventually your volunteer base is going to get smaller and smaller and you're going to lose those people," Gordon said.

RSVP volunteers serve in dozens of different ways. They serve food, help in offices, and act as mentors. One program, Friends for Fun, pairs RSVP volunteers with Westminster College students. The pairs then visit Bartley Elementary School in Fulton. Senior volunteers play, read, and talk with children.

"For us it's a win-win situation. [RSVP] had the opportunity to organize it from that end and I think our students benefit a great deal from it," said Connie Epperson, principal of Bartley Elementary School.

Epperson said the children have responded well to Friends for Fun. She said it was originally designed for students that needed tutoring, but other students wanted to join the program too.

SERVE said if the federal budget cuts go through, RSVP programs like Friends for Fun will likely end. Gordon said volunteers may show up without RSVP oversight at first, but in the long run, the community needs programs like RSVP to coordinate and recruit volunteers.

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