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Thanking hundreds of volunteers in Schuylkill County

RSVP is a program that gives senior citizens the chance to volunteer after they retire, and every year the program hosts a recognition event to thank them.

PALO ALTO, Pa. — Volunteers with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP for short, range in age from their mid-50s to mid-90s. RSVP gives retired senior citizens in Schuylkill County the chance to give back to their community through volunteer work while also keeping them active and engaged. 

"Well, it keeps me in touch with the children, first of all. One of the things I wanted to do when I was retired was to get involved with nonprofits, so this kind of filled both shoes," said Deb Karpovich, Pottsville. She is a retired special education teacher of 35 years and has been volunteering through RSVP since 2016.

RSVP is a federally-funded program. To thank the hundreds of volunteers for all of their hard work throughout the year, RSVP's Advisory Council hosts an annual recognition event.

"If you have a bunch of people that are willing to give their retirement hours up to do something for the community, they're usually caring people. They're people who care about their neighborhood, care about their neighbors, care about more than just themselves," said RSVP Coordinator Darla Troutman. 

Usually, the recognition event is a sit-down brunch, but for the last two years, it has been a drive-through where the volunteers get a boxed lunch, gifts, and the chance to win raffle prizes.

"I think this is wonderful. They're so good to us. They make you want to come back," said volunteer Joanna Laczynski, Pine Grove.

When there is not a pandemic, RSVP typically has about 350 volunteers, all from Schuylkill County. That adds up to about 30,000 hours worth of volunteer work a year.

"Which if you use the minimum wage, is like a quarter of a million dollars. Some of what they do would pay more than minimum wage if it was your job, so that's the bare minimum. They do about a quarter of a million dollars of free work for the county," Troutman explained. 

But volunteers through RSVP do even more than just free work at places like hospitals and libraries, things that involve just bettering the community. 

"The pen pal program where we write letters to 5th graders, to keep us happy, but also to help them learn how to write and read," RSVP Chairperson Beth Travis explained.

At the end of the drive-through, the volunteers were also greeted by county commissioners and were able to drop off donations to benefit all of the nonprofits the volunteers serve.