WHITE MOUNTAINS — The definition of community, according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, is “a society of people ... living under the same laws and regulations”. Our White Mountains Community is exactly that. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, many of our current regulations are not of our choosing yet are a significant reality. Despite the uncertain situation we find ourselves in, our community has responded like champions.
We want to thank our heroic first responders and health care workers, who have been on the front lines of this entire pandemic. In addition, there is another “society of people’’ that has quietly been on the front lines as well. They are unsung champions, heroes whose influence has blessed many in our communities. Who are these people? Our White Mountain Volunteers — especially those over 55!
Many of these volunteers are part of the RSVP — the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. The RSVP focuses on providing service to organizations that need help by harnessing the talents, time, and abilities of our communities’ senior volunteers. The organizations they help include Accord Hospice, local food assistance, senior centers, libraries and schools, community gardens, and thrift stores. Specifically, Meals on Wheels — hot and frozen meals delivered daily to those who are homebound — as well as community Food Distribution days are delivered mostly by these volunteers.
All of these organizations are run by nonprofits. Without volunteers, they could not provide much needed services in our community. This is where our volunteers over 55 are critical! Their influence has only grown with the rise of the pandemic.
COVID-19 created a crisis. Stores closing or limiting their business, disruptions in food supplies (not to mention toilet paper), general economic and social uncertainty, as well as staying at home, continues to create needs much greater than normal. In usual times, volunteers, numbering over 200 strong, are involved in organizations all over the White Mountains. In usual times, Meals on Wheels and Food Distribution alone have helped deliver over 1,000 meals and almost 300 boxes of food. However, our current circumstances are not usual, and our volunteers stepped up to the challenge.
When the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order came, some of these volunteers had to stay home. Heroically, this challenge did not stop the volunteer effort. Meals on Wheels drivers chose to continue servicing their clients. Between Snowflake/Taylor and Heber Overgaard, over 1,700 Meals on Wheels were delivered. Food Bank distributions were still completed. These two programs, as well as many others, continued to operate during the crisis. This shows not only how great the need is, but how dedicated our volunteers are. As Abigail Adams said so poignantly, “Affliction is a good man’s shining time”. Our volunteers shone brightly as they strove to keep our communities connected throughout the pandemic.
If you are over 55, consider being a RSVP partner in your community. You are needed. There is a place for you. There are opportunities and places to fuel your talents and energy. Senior volunteers can serve in multiple ways as their individual time and energy allows. The “Stay Connected” portion of our COVID-19 restrictions need not be forgotten as restrictions are lifted.
There is a story of a teacher who gave each of her students a balloon with their name on it. She took them into the hallway and asked them to find their balloon in five minutes. They were unable to do so. Next, she asked her students to take the balloon next to them and give it to the person to whom it belonged. All the balloons were returned to their owners in less than two minutes. Her point? You are likely to go further, and find more happiness, if you spend time giving to others.
Volunteering is about helping everyone find their balloon. It’s about being a society of connected people. If you are hunting for your own balloon, maybe you could start your journey by giving someone else theirs. You may never know how much something you do affects someone else in a positive way.