By Rob Paine, RSVP-Northern Virginia & Volunteer Alexandria
“Volunteering is a good way to keep social,” says RSVP-Northern Virginia volunteer and engagement leader Sue Dussinger of Alexandria. “I have never in my life been a real joiner, but once you get into (volunteering), you can’t stop. I love interacting with people.”
Dussinger began her journey with RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) at a fall festival in Fairfax City in 2016, after helping out at an information booth alongside an RSVP staff member. “It started me off knowing that I wanted to do more with RSVP,” Dussinger said. She has volunteered at the event every year since. Prior to joining RSVP, Dussinger had more than a decade of volunteer work under her belt with Volunteer Fairfax’s Volunteers for Change program.
RSVP-Northern Virginia, the region’s largest volunteer network for those 55 years old and more, is offered through a collaboration of local volunteer centers, including Volunteer Fairfax, Volunteer Alexandria, and Volunteer Arlington. It provides personalized support to seniors who are looking for fun, meaningful service experiences.
“I get more benefit (from volunteering) than the people I’m helping,” Dussinger says. “If that sounds selfish, well…. But I know I’m helping people. It really helps you grow a little bit.”
While at RSVP, Dussinger’s experiences have ranged from coordinating a monthly group service project at River Farm in Alexandria to helping in the resume review room at the 50+ Employment Expo each spring in Northern Virginia. She is also a volunteer driver for Fairfax County’s Volunteer Solutions.
RSVP offers more than 300 meaningful opportunities that include helping seniors age in place, assisting local food pantries, and teaching financial literacy. RSVP also recruits volunteers for various community events, including the annual Northern Virginia Senior Olympics, which wrapped up in late September.
Several of RSVP’s nonprofit partners offer opportunities in the Alexandria area, including Volunteer Alexandria, New Hope Housing, River Farm (headquarters of the American Horticultural Society), The American Red Cross, and United Community.
RSVP volunteers enjoy flexible schedules, free accident and liability insurance (while serving), and optional mileage and meal reimbursement, but for most RSVP members, the social component of volunteering—the opportunity to stay connected—is key.
“I just cannot say enough about how much volunteering has benefited me,” Dussinger says. After retiring in 2012, Dussinger began working as a fitness specialist at a local health club and she points to the health benefits of being a senior volunteer. “You really need to stay active. You need to keep moving as seniors,” she says.
She became interested in becoming an RSVP engagement leader after working with Ken Kozloff at the 2017 Northern Virginia Senior Olympics. “I just liked the idea of helping to coordinate and to make (the event) a good experience for the volunteers” she says.
Why does Dussinger recommend volunteering with RSVP?
“I have been involved with two RSVP volunteer coordinators and both are excellent. I think that is where it starts,” she says. “They seem to seek out opportunities for us that are laid out beautifully in our newsletter, so you get to choose. There will probably be something that will interest you. They (the volunteer specialists) look for different opportunities because they know we are different people.
“I can honestly say I have never regretted going on a single volunteer project. That is a huge thing,” she adds. “You meet the most wonderful people.”
Would you like to attend one of RSVP’s free upcoming “Art of Volunteering in Retirement” seminars? In October, RSVP will be at the Fairfax Central Library in Fairfax City, October 17. On October 23, RSVP will be at Capital Caring’s Halquist Center in Arlington. On November 6, RSVP will be holding a seminar at Sherwood Regional Library in Alexandria. To register for any of these events, please visit www.rsvpnova.org.
To learn more about the RSVP in Alexandria, please visit www.rsvpnova.org or call 703-403-5360.