Responding to Community Needs Through Volunteerism
How it all started
In 1969, the national Retired Senior Volunteer Program was authorized by Congress, through an amendment to the Older Americans Act. The program was transferred from the Administration on Aging to ACTION, the federal volunteer agency, in 1971.
In 1973, ACTION decentralized and RSVP projects were then funded through regional and state offices and sponsored by private and nonprofit organizations or public agencies at the local level.
Accepting the challenge, a grassroots movement began, and RSVP of Montgomery County was born on January 2, 1973, with support from ACTION and a grant from Family Services of Montgomery County, PA.
RSVP was initially launched on the Main Line. The first 4 volunteers clocked 54 hours that first month, with membership and hours doubling in February, 1973. The Pottstown office was established in March, 1973 and the Norristown branch about three months later. By the end of 1973, programs were operating in Lansdale and Abington areas. In January, 1974, RSVP gained its sixth regional presence when the Perkiomen Valley office was opened.
Although individual office addresses have changed over time, the philosophy of the organization has remained constant during its history. From the outset, RSVP’s field coordinators have worked closely with local organizations to develop interesting volunteer assignments, and provide mature men and women with a host of service opportunities.
As time passed, and seniors across the county were drawn to the program, the organization sought to broaden its scope. In 1979, RSVP of Montgomery County, Inc., became one of 30 out of approximately 750 RSVP ‘projects’ nationwide, to become self-sponsored and incorporated. Unlike the majority of RSVP’s it was no longer under the auspices of another nonprofit agency. While the changes in status challenged the program to raise a significant percentage of our funding annually, it also allowed RSVP the freedom to create special programs and be governed by its own board of directors.
Today, RSVP provides rewarding volunteer opportunities to nearly 1,300 volunteers through ten unique Volunteer Impact Programs, reaching our most vulnerable populations (disadvantaged preschool children, at-risk youth, the elderly, those with low literacy skills, the unemployed and veterans) as well as providing consulting support to nonprofit organizations.