October 2, 2013

RSVP turns 40


PLATTSBURGH — The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Clinton County has kept going and going for 40 years now.

The milestone gives volunteers a little more to celebrate this year at Friday’s Recognition Luncheon at the Peru VFW Post 309.

“RSVP started in 1973,” said Kate Gardner, director of the program.

“At that time, RSVP was sponsored by Clinton Community College and was part of this national volunteer-service agency at the federal level.

“It then became part of the Corporation for National Community Service, which kind of came out of the Serve America Act with President Clinton.”

At that time, the RSVP programs nationwide were reorganized. RSVP, funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service Senior Corps Division, receives grants from the United Way of the Adirondack Region and New York State Office for the Aging.

“Just like AmeriCorps exists today, RSVP is part of Senior Corps,” Gardner said. “Senior Corps is the senior version of AmeriCorps, a part of the president’s Serve America Act that was created. A bunch of North Country citizens in the ‘70s thought it would be great to have one of these locally. You don’t have to be retired and senior. You just have to be 55 and older.”

Locally, RSVP has 395 active volunteers — ages 55 to 102 — who have contributed 40,000 hours.

“We’re celebrating what RSVP does, recognizing our volunteers at a Recognition Luncheon. They’ve done it for 40 years. I have been here four years. I come from a long line of great directors who have guided the program to its current status,” she said.

The volunteers serve nonprofit organizations and agencies.

“We have volunteers serve at North Country Chapter of (the) American Red Cross, CVPH (Medical Center), North Country Center for Independence and the Radio Reader Program. The readers read at Mountain Lake PBS for people who are visually impaired. They also volunteer in 10 schools in Clinton County through the Reading Buddy Program,” Gardner said.

“Some are in Plattsburgh at Momot Elementary, Cumberland Head, Chazy Central Rural and Peru Primary. Bailey Avenue is our oldest school. We’ve been there 15 years.”

Volunteers also staff the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum and Dannemora Free Library.

“There’s a ton of them,” Gardner said.

Friday’s luncheon will be catered by the Clinton County Senior Nutrition Program.

“We expect about 100 people. I have reservations for 85. We give out awards. Our oldest RSVP volunteer is 102, Albina St. Germain. She’s volunteered for 36 years. She will tell you she’s 102 and a half. She still comes into my office. She’s still OK and mobile. She comes to deliver her lap robes for veterans who are at the VA in Albany,” Gardner said.

The agency gives out pins to volunteers who have achieved 25 years of service such as Hazel Cuffe.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s very social. We have an Advisory Council that hosts this luncheon. They host an appetizer hour, and they are the party organizers. We have entertainment just to celebrate their volunteerism.”

This year’s milestone will be observed with a trip down memory lane, with memorabilia including photographs, newspaper articles and press releases.

“People will recognize themselves in the photos from the Press-Republican,” Gardner said. “The RSVP Kitchen Band has been performing in the North Country for 35 years. It’s a full-country band under the leadership of Frank Cody. They perform for senior citizens, all ages, and they are our house band. It’s a nine-piece, electric country band. They are all seniors. I would like to give them special recognition.”

Email Robin



WHAT: RSVP Program of Clinton County

WHERE: 46 Flynn Ave., Suite 612, Plattsburgh.

CONTACT: Kate Gardner, director, at 566-0944 or