RSVP’S SENIOR VOLUNTEERS FIND PURPOSE AND PLEASURE
Well before her retirement as a paralegal in 2020, Barbara Krumbhaar began volunteering.
“I didn’t really have hobbies,” she said. “When I stopped working, I didn’t want to feel like I’d fallen off a precipice.”
So in 2016, she volunteered through RSVP as a Plymouth Elementary School reading coach with the American Reads program.
“You’re helping children who need some boosting and reinforcement,” she said. “It’s great to see the kids make progress and to make reading fun and see them enjoying it.”
When COVID-19 shut down the in-person reading program, RSVP trained Krumbhaar as a virtual reading tutor for its Vello program, offered in cooperation with United Way. She also volunteers for a nonprofit that distributes used books to Philadelphia schools.
RSVP links volunteers like Krumbhaar to numerous programs that center on education, wellness and support for other nonprofits in Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties and the city of Philadelphia. The organization began in 1973 under a federal program to place seniors in nonprofit agencies. Anyone age 18 and older may participate, though nearly 70% of RSVP’s 1,200 volunteers are age 55 or older.
Of these senior volunteers, “the largest group is age 70 to 79,” said Kathy Stocker, RSVP’s community outreach and volunteer coordinator. “That’s probably because to get full Social Security, you have to work until at least 66 or 67 and more people are staying in the workforce.”
She said 16 RSVP volunteers are age 90 or older.
Purpose in retirement
“I’m not a sit-aroundand-relax retiree,” said Diane Duda, who retired last year as a corporate chief actuary. “I found that I needed to inject some purpose in my life.”
Duda is now a volunteer Medicare counselor for the PA Medi program, which RSVP coordinates for Montgomery County. The program is free to anyone enrolling in or needing help with Medicare.
“I really enjoy it. It feels like I’m using the skills I honed in my career in terms of problem-solving
and explaining to others,” said Duda, who also volunteers as an academic support coach and tutor.
After Noah Borenstein retired in 2007 as a manager for Rohm & Hass Corp.: “I did all the fixing up around the house I wanted to do and my wife said I’d better find something else to do. I Googled ‘volunteering’ and RSVP showed up on the screen.”
Thus began a 15-year relationship in which Borenstein helped to develop the My Free Tutor virtual math program that now serves elementary to college-age students.
“It’s very gratifying to be able to apply what you’ve learned to help young kids develop a skill,” he said. “A lot of lightbulbs go on. I really enjoy my time with students. Tutoring is a labor of love.”
Borenstein also served as a GED instructor and joined and became an officer of the RSVP board of directors.
“It’s almost like a new career,” he said. “Not having enough to do doesn’t happen!”
Helping those in need
After the pandemic struck in 2020, RSVP stepped up its involvement with Meals on Wheels, food pantries, food distribution events and grocery pickups for stranded seniors. Stocker said there is a current need for food pantry volunteers and Meals on Wheels drivers.
“With prices going up, even if folks have a SNAP benefit, it doesn’t go as far,” she said. “Drivers are hard to find because gas is so expensive.”
Retirees Jim and Sandy Bahn have distributed Meals on Wheels prepared by the Colonial Neighborhood Council in Coshohocken since 2019.
“Jim and Sandy were a great find,” said Sandy Fryer, the council’s executive director. “When there’s