Offering a helping hand

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 21, 2001


PHOTO: FAY CAIRE OF RSVP coordinates senior volunteer activities across the River Parishes, from Romeville to Ama. (Staff Photo by Leonard Gray) LULING – The Retired Senior Volunteer Program coordinates volunteer activities by senior citizens throughout the River Parishes, and saves parish governments and schools thousands of dollars annually in the process. RSVP, now celebrating its 25th year, is administered by Fay Caire, a native and resident of St. Charles Parish, who has been on the job since April 1994. RSVP is a federally-legislated grant program under the Corporation for National and Community Service, with funding from national, state and local sources, including the United Way of St. Charles, the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs and St. John the Baptist Parish. The way it all works, Caire says, is simple – where there’s a need in a non-profit organization for almost any type of help, there is a qualified volunteer, age 55 and up, who is able to step into the role. “The way we recruit is by word of mouth from the volunteers themselves,” Caire said. During 2000, the 818 registered volunteers provided more than 123,000 hours of documented service to 63 different agencies across the River Parishes. Those volunteers provide their time, talents and considerable enthusiasm to their respective jobs. Some, like Clara Englade, 92, and Lena LaCroix, 101, both of Luling, have made new careers out of their “retirement years.” If one takes a look around, one can hardly step without encountering an RSVP volunteer. They range from Gwen and James Booth at the St. John ARC, Don and Shirley Haywood at the St. John Ministry of Care, Juliette Maquar at the St. Joan of Arc Thrift Shop, Betty Vicknair at St. Hubert Catholic Church, Edward Troxclair at the St. John office of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Lucille Falgoust at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Norco, and Ruth Schroeder at St. Charles Parish Hospital. It’s not just agencies and churches where RSVP has made its contribution. Special events from the Relay for Life, Louisiana Special Olympics, Louisiana Senior Olympics and the Destrehan Fall Festival have all benefitted as well. Some volunteers even help without leaving their homes, such as Marie and Herbert Poche of Ama, who are eager to stuff envelopes when called upon to do so. Caire is ideal for her job as well. The Luling resident is married to Tommy Caire and they have two children, Matthew and Rebecca. She graduated from Hahnville High School in 1971, then earned an associate degree in office management from Nicholls State University. After a brief time in private industry, she moved to the public sector 15 years ago working with the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) office. Caire said of her current job, “I felt like I would enjoy it. These people are giving from their hearts.” She was already familiar through JTPA with federal rules and regulations, especially with grant writing and dealing with an advisory council. “I can remember my first week, I was sent to a conference in New Orleans. They asked everyone how many years they had been working with RSVP. I said, Two days.'” However, she’s taken to the agency like a duck to water. She’s the immediate past president of the state association and recently joined the Senior Employment Services Coordinated Plan Task Force of the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs. With assistants such as Sandra Hawkins and Inez Blank, the program also provides volunteers with accident and liability insurance, travel reimbursement, meals and an annual recognition banquet every June. RSVP allows senior citizens to remain active, involved and act as a vital part of their community.