RSVP is the nerve center for volunteerism in the county |

RSVP is the nerve center for volunteerism in the county

Niki Delson
High Country RSVP
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

For years Lois Hayes did what most Americans do at this time of year. She gathered her W-2 statements and other tax related documents and made an appointment with a private tax consultant to complete her taxes.

As a single woman and primary caregiver of her physically and mentally challenged adult son David, the fee for this service was hard on her budget. Last year, she was thrilled to read a small notice in the Post Independent advising the community that High Country Retired Senior Volunteer Program was offering tax preparation services free of charge to qualified individuals.

In her dreams she could not imagine what would happen next.

While preparing Hayes’s tax return, Judy Comm, an RSVP volunteer and site coordinator for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly, noticed that the company that prepared the previous years’ taxes had failed to apply a well-deserved credit.

With Comm’s help, Hayes not only saved the cost of tax preparation and obtained the credit for 2010, but was able to file amended returns for the previous four years.

“We are truly blessed,” said Hayes. The IRS returned more than $12,000. Now Hayes would be able to retire and have a small cushion for herself and her son.

High Country RSVP was founded in 1973 by a group of longtime community residents who were committed to addressing Garfield County’s unmet needs. Early projects included sewing for the nursing home, craft fairs and tag sales to raise money.

Initially housed in basement of the Hotel Colorado, one of the first accomplishments of this group was to create the Garfield County Council on Aging. That council, in turn, focused their efforts on the creation of the Senior Transportation Program, which initially comprised one small van and one driver to serve the whole of Garfield County.

In 1978, the Colorado Mountain College board of trustees, desiring to grow community partnerships, voted to sponsor RSVP. Today, CMC and RSVP continue this cooperative venture and share the vision that RSVP be the first choice for information on volunteering and community service in Garfield County.

Although the transportation program, known as The Traveler, was handed off to local governments in 2007, the agency continues to serve as the nerve center for volunteerism in the county.

High Country RSVP has been located in the Glenwood Center of CMC since 1981 and provides CMC students with information on volunteer opportunities.

Recently, Arbi Suleymonor, a CMC student from Russia wanting to become more proficient in his use of English, began volunteering by serving lunch for the senior lunch program. At the same time, he can practice conversational English.

Patty Daniells, RSVP program director, and Barbara Peterson, volunteer coordinator, fill the agency’s 1.5 staff positions.

Together they coordinate volunteer services for 53 nonprofit, public and proprietary health care agencies and coordinate work opportunities for 220 RSVP volunteers who provided 30,738 volunteer hours to Garfield County residents in 2010.

“We have volunteers who have been CEOs, college presidents, police officers, county commissioners, teachers, businessmen and -women, mental health professionals, authors, parents, grandparents and everyday heroes,” Daniells said.

RSVP has three signature programs not duplicated elsewhere in the county: tax preparation assistance, Medicare assistance and Helping Hands for Seniors. Helping Hands uses volunteers to help seniors live independently by making small repairs and providing home maintenance.

In addition, volunteers serve in hospitals, blood banks, deliver Meals on Wheels, mentor youth, tutor, lead tours at museums, offer support to caregivers of critical patients as Hospice volunteers, help build homes for the indigent, walk pets, serve on boards, teach driver safety classes, work in food banks, assist in libraries, help with fundraising events for partner agencies, work in offices and provide vision tests at schools.

One volunteer, Niki Delson, even writes this Nonprofit Spotlight column for the Post Independent.

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