Santaniello Gets AARP’s Most Prestigious Award

Published in Pawtucket Times, December 6, 2013

Look for hundreds of AARP members to gather today at this year’s Andrus Awards noon luncheon at the West Valley Inn, in West Warwick, to recognize their own, at the aging group’s annual Andrus Awards ceremony.

Norma Santaniello, 81, gets the Rhode Island AARP Chapter’s most prestigious volunteer award for age 50 and older volunteers, that is the 2013 AARP Rhode Island Andrus Award for Community Service. It’s the aging advocacy groups most visible state volunteer award for community service

“This award acts as a symbol to the public that we can all work together for positive social change,” states . “AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions volunteers make to their communities, neighbors, and the programs they serve.”

Connell says the North Providence resident has worked with the nonprofit’s chapters and community partners, reinforcing the organization’s strategic priorities and being a voice to the public. “She is a strong advocate for community service and works with the volunteers on projects such as the RI Community Food Bank and at various health and fitness fairs.”

Santaniello follows a very distinguished group of award recipients. Previous Andrus Award winners are Sarah Gauvin, Virginia Tierney, Anna Prior, Ann Gardella, Melvoid Benson, John O’Hara, Rita Wood, Ed Drew, Richard Ryan, Jorge Cardenas and Catherine Graziano

The December 6 Andrus Awards Luncheon is very festive and upbeat regardless of “what is going wrong in the world or otherwise leaving us feeling unsettled,” says Connell, noting that she looks forward to attending this annual event because “it is a time to acknowledge volunteerism and public service on many levels.

AARP Rhode Island’s Andrus Awards Luncheon allows the organization to recognize people for their community service throughout the year. “It is indeed an honor to know each and every one present, along with many who are absent,” notes Connell, stressing that they represent an “even greater network of volunteers and advocates who carry on Ethel Percy Andrus’s dream of a productive and fulfilling life for people whose knowledge, passion and energy remains indispensable in our neighborhoods and in towns and cities all across our great state.”

AARP Award Recognizes Ethel Percy Andrus’s Advocacy

According to Connell, her group’s top award is given to recognize and honor AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus, she “embodies all that AARP stands for. Once Andrus retired in 1944 from her position as Los Angeles high school principal in 1944, she stepped into a new career, one that ultimately would have a major impact on the nation. “She became an activist and organizer on behalf of other retirees and older Americans, fighting to improve their financial security, their health care and other services that they need, says AARP Rhode Island’s State Director.

The former long-time educator, who served as the first woman high school principal in California, never married and was childless, had retired so that she could care for her mother, who was in poor health. Despite decades of working, Andrus was entitled to a pension of just $60 a month, around $750 in today’s dollars. She had enough money to financially survive, but she realized that many of her older colleagues were not so fortunate, living off incredibly small pensions.

For Andrus, her commitment to become a change agent for society was fueled by learning the indignity faced by a former colleague due to lack of retirement income was forced to live in a chicken coop in a small town outside Los Angeles. This led to Andrus to become active in the California Retired Teachers Association and in 1947 she founded the National Retired Teachers Association. This group would ultimately lead to the creation of AARP in 1958, now considered the nation’s largest aging advocacy group.

Connell notes that Andrus worked to shift the nation’s perception of aging. As she once explained, “Old age is not a defeat, but a victory, not a punishment, but a privilege.” The aging advocate urged her fellow retirees “to be as active as possible — to pursue new passions, to travel and see the world, and, most of all, to continue to use the skills and experience developed over a lifetime to serve their communities.”

The Ojai, California resident continued to work long hours and travel to promote AARP until her death from a heart attack at age 83 in 1967, the same year that membership in AARP reached 1 million. Today, AARP’s membership serves over 40 million older people.

Like the AARP Rhode Island Chapter, recipients across the nation are to receive the distinguished award, named for Andrus, recognizing their ability to enhance the lives of AARP members and prospective members, improve their community or for which the work was performed, and the inspiration they give other volunteers.

Empowering Seniors

For 29 years, juggling a demanding job that provided administrative support for Providence School Principals combined with raising two young children left Santaniello with little time after hours to join community organizations. One year shy of age 60, she would take retirement, noting that “I had worked long enough, had a pension, and just wanted to do different things.”

Santaniello remembers her volunteer work began when she was invited to join the State Legislative Committee some 18 years ago. The retired Providence School Department employee, joined the AARP North Providence Chapter taking the helm of its Legislative Committee, ultimately being appointed to AARP Rhode Island’s State Legislative Committee. In these positions she has written numerous letters to Congressional lawmakers on aging advocacy issues and has testified many times on Smith Hill before the General Assembly on a multitude of aging issues, including care giver issues, long-term care, Social Security, and fair market pricing for prescription drugs.

As the years rolled by, Santaniello would continue to put her energy into her AARP duties. But, she also would find time to teach fifth graders about religion at her local parish, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in North Providence, serve as a board member for Marieville’s Community Police program and to even became certified to be on FEMA’s Emergency Response Team in the Ocean State. That’s not all.

Santaniello is actively involved in the Department of Elderly Affairs’ Senior Help Insurance program, assisting seniors to get the best insurance plan for their specific needs. “Right now I am very concerned about United Health Care dropping physicians,” she says.

Besides receiving the Andrus Award, Santaniello notes she has also accumulated a few others over the years. She received the AARP Rhode Island’s Outstanding Team member Award in both 2000 and 2004 and the nonprofit group’s Life Time Chapter Education Award in 2010.

With today’s luncheon ceremony in her thoughts, Santaniello admits, “it’s quite an honor, getting the highest award that AARP can bestow.” She seems amazed that one should get this award for just doing something you like. “Obviously, if I did not enjoy what I was doing I would not have been around so long,” she says.

As to staying active in her early eighties, Santaniello hopes that her older friends will find volunteer activities that are worthwhile to invest their time and energy. “We just have to know what is going [in the world] or we will fade away, she said.

Like Santaniello, older Rhode Islanders might consider following her very active life style. Become a volunteer in your community. According to the Washington, DC-based Corporation for National & Community Service, a growing body of research details that older volunteers have lower mortality rates, less depression, fewer physical limitations and higher levels of well-being. Older volunteer’s can tackle community problems, making the world a better place for their children and grandchildren. Being a volunteer might just well be your fountain of youth.

At today’s Andrus Awards noon luncheon, here are other AARP members who will be recognized for the 2013 Volunteer Leader of the Year: Advocacy; Doris Haskins (Advocacy): Julia Valles (Community Presence); Lourdes Pichardo (Maria Matias Award); Susan Sweet (Advocacy Education); and Jorge Cardenas (Volunteer Engagement).

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

It Takes a “Village” to Organize an Arts Festival

Published in Pawtucket Times, August 30, 2013

Years ago, the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, wrote a book It Takes a Village, attributing the title to an old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The book details the impact individuals and groups outside the family make on meeting a child’s needs.

City government does not always have the financial means or resources to organize large community gatherings, successfully. Just as it takes a “Village” to assist parents in raising their children, it takes the commitment of dedicated community volunteers in a “Village,” that is Pawtucket, to work closely with City government to organize and host one of the largest arts and cultural festivals in the Ocean State, maybe even in New England: the Pawtucket Arts Festival (PAF).

The upcoming month-long PAF, organized by Pawtucket’s Department of Planning and Redevelopment, leading cultural and service organizations, as well as community volunteers, is scheduled for September 6 to September 29, at various locations throughout the City.

With more than two centuries of story to showcase, the PAF turns the spotlight on glorious Slater Memorial Park, the Blackstone River and the riverfront, and the city’s contemporary blue-collar urban core, with its restored mills and commercial spaces that now house visual arts and recording studios, galleries and fabricators, as well as two of New England’s most highly regarded theatres, the Gamm Theatre and Mixed Magic Theatre.

The City’s arts festival celebrates a legacy of creativity and innovation that dates way back to 1790, when a young textile wizard from England, Samuel Slater, made the Blackstone River Valley and the City of Pawtucket the Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and the place where artisans and craftsmen first gathered.

Now in its 15th year, the Pawtucket Arts Festival is overseen by Pawtucket resident John Baxter. PAF Chairman Baxter, a senior level staffer for the Rhode Island Senate, and his executive committee of 16 volunteers are about ready to see the fruit of their year-long planning.

Performing Arts Chair Mary Lee Partington says, “The performing arts focus of the Pawtucket Arts Festival is aimed at interpreting the region’s innovative and entrepreneurial energy through the state’s resident artists…many of whom perform and introduce new and original material during the month-long Festival.”

Partington notes the range of offerings from classical, traditional, or folk music and dance to Aurea, Opera Providence, and jazz artists Greg Abate and Duke Robillard and their ensembles, as well as theatre at The Gamm and performance art from TEN31 Productions. Pawtucket’s widely-acclaimed arts festival reaches across geography and genres to show the performing arts at work in Rhode Island and among our national and international touring artists.

“We tell Rhode Island’s story through the arts…here, there, and everywhere,” stresses Partington.

Here are some of the major events of the first weekend of the upcoming Pawtucket Arts Festival.

Celebration in the Streets

Next Friday, on September 6, PAF organizers kick off the first ever Blackstone River Party: Taste of the Valley, brought to you by Schofield Printing. The event, drawing thousands to the grounds of the historic Slater Mill Museum and the blocked off Roosevelt Ave., is scheduled from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The City’s largest downtown block party offers food and dessert samplings served by some of the finest restaurants in Pawtucket and the surrounding Blackstone Valley communities. A cash bar is available.

Crowds will gather on the large dance floor under a huge white tent as Rhode Island’s high energy Zydeco band, Slippery Sneakers, begins playing at 6:00 p.m., concluding at 8:00 p.m. After a brief break, headliner Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic take the stage from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Admission is $10. Children under 12 are admitted free. The event is “Rain or Shine.” Advance tickets can be purchased at the City Visitor Center.

On September 7-8, the performing arts share the stage with visual arts and fine craft when more than 50 artists show their one-of-a-kind work at Arts Marketplace: Pawtucket (www.artsmarketplacepawtucket.com), from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., in the Pawtucket Armory Center for the Arts. Surrounding the 119 year old historic armory, XOS-Exchange Open Studios (www.xospawtucket.com), from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., brings art buyers into the studios of more than 60 artists located throughout four renovated mills in the City’s Pawtucket Amory District.

According to Joan Hausrath, a retired college professor and artist at Riverfront Lofts across from Pawtucket City Hall, XOS Exchange Street Open Studios attracted more than 2000 people last year for its 2-day inaugural event. One of the benefits of having open studios in her neighborhood is that visitors can easily walk from one mill to another – all located within one block of each other, and they are just yards from Exit 29 off I-95, the artist noted.

Hausrath and her fellow organizers of this event invited artists from the other mills in Pawtucket to participate as guest artists, to increase the concentration of talent within the grand, historic structures that provide creative home and work space for these gifted citizens of the arts.

Jam Packed First Weekend

Also, on September 7 other festivities include The Dragon Boat Races and Taiwan Day Festival on the Blackstone River, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at School Street Pier (presented by Schofield Printing); the Lighting of Pawtucket’s New Bridge (4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.); Slater Mill Museum’s new In-OVATION Festival featuring the Duke Robillard Jazz Trio and the Matt Macaulay Trio and more (12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m.). Meanwhile, Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, will be offered by Opera Providence, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., at the City Visitor Center, and The Samaritans of RI, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., showcases their intimate fine arts gallery and In-OVATION Festival After Party with Unforgettable September Music at Forget-Me-Not Gallery on Park Place.

Finally, among the new PAF events this year is the Pawtucket Rotary Club’s Food Trucks on the Blackstone (www.blackstonefoodtrucks.com), offering a food fair (and beer tent) on September 7-8, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., near Pawtucket City Hall, to hungry families, art shoppers, and audience attending Slater Mill Museum free musical performances.

On September 8, Slater Mill’s Labor, Ethnic and Heritage Festival, presents one of the Ocean State’s longest-running folk music and heritage-arts festivals. Initiated in the late 1980’s in partnership with the Rhode Island labor community and affiliated unions, the L&E Festival celebrated 25 years in 2012. The Sunday event, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., shines its spotlight on folk and ethnic music, the artisans of the Community Guilds Studio and gifted regional artists and artisans.

Creative Co-advisor to In-OVATION FESTIVAL and the Labor & Ethnic Heritage Festival at Slater Mill is Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame inductee Ken Lyon, a blues and folk music legend who helped design this year’s music festivals, who lists the L&E lineup with members of Magnolia, The Greg Abate Jazz Quartet, The Eastern Medicine Singers, Joyce Katzberg & Jimmy Warren, Bill Petterson, The Zimmermen (presenting the repertoire of Bob Dylan) and more.

Admission for the folk music festival on the grounds of Slater Mill is free. Admission prices for Slater Mill tours are listed at http://www.slatermill.org. Special preview tours “RI Labor History 1790-1830” by Slater Mill interpretive guide Joey L DeFrancesco of “Joey Quits” You Tube fame, will be offered.

Logistics Co-Chair Paul Audette, a semi-retired businessman who serves as a volunteer festival organizer, has seen the Arts Festival “grow up” and offer more sophisticated artistic presentations. “Programming reaches out to more people in a larger geographic area to showcase Pawtucket and the Blackstone Valley region positively,” he observes, noting that this year’s events are more varied and offer something for everyone.

Adds Chairman Baxter, “I continue to be amazed that the Pawtucket Arts Festival, with its limited financial and manpower resources, manages to produce this remarkable event again and again.” Community volunteers and arts and cultural organizations are truly the life-blood of the City’s largest festival, Baxter observes. “Without the incredible support of the City Administration, the local business community, the cultural enterprise community, and these volunteers, the Pawtucket Arts Festival would never happen.”

Keeping Kristine’s Vision Alive

In 1999, Kristine Kilmartin, newly married to her husband Pawtucket Rep. Peter Kilmartin, had lived in Pawtucket for only a few months. The Smithfield native was driving through Slater Memorial Park in early January with her new husband when she asked why the City didn’t take more advantage of its green space. Kristine wondered why the City couldn’t do something like the Scituate Arts Festival in the City’s 209-acre park. The Kilmartin’s turned to Mayor James E. Doyle with the idea of creating an arts
festival. After a month of meetings, discussion, and planning, the City created an 18-person volunteer committee to begin planning the first Arts Festival.

Fifteen years later, volunteers from the community have kept Kristine’s vision alive, annually bringing new life in September to the City’s downtown and to its largest municipal park.

For more details and updated information on the 2013 Pawtucket Arts Festival, go to http://www.pawtucketartsfestival.org.

Herb Weiss, Leadership RI ’12, is a Pawtucket writer who covers aging, health care, and medical issues. As Economic & Cultural Affairs Officer for the City of Pawtucket, he provides staff support to the Pawtucket Arts Festival organizers.

Raimondo Rolls out Educational Initiative to Financially Empower Rhode Islanders

Published in the Pawtucket Times, August 2, 2013

Everybody has been hit hard over the years with the economic downturn in the Ocean State. The statistics are startling about the impact on Rhode Islander’s pocketbooks. According to the Office of the General Treasurer, two-thirds of Rhode Islanders reported some difficulty in covering their expenses and paying bills. Startling the average borrow in our state has $13,221 in credit card debt, the 5th highest amount in the nation. Almost 47% of the Ocean State’s homeowners are “cost burdened,” that is home ownership costs more than 30 percent of their income.

During her first term, overcoming strong opposition of union groups, Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo, working with Governor Chafee and leadership in the General Assembly, successfully redesigned Rhode Island’s state-administered public employee pension system. Now the Smithfield native, and mother of two, who graduated from LaSalle Academy, Harvard University and Yale Law School, who became a Rhode Scholar at Oxford University, goes into full gear to financially empower the state’s residents to make informed disciplined choices to achieve their financial goals.

Raimondo’s interest in financial empowerment came from her memories of growing up in a modest-income family, and a house with three kids and her grandfather. “My family had to become very smart about saving and budgeting,” she noted. By financial juggling and hard work, she was able along with her two siblings to attend college. According to Raimndo, getting a good college education allowed her to climb up the career ladder and eventually run for General Treasurer.

Building a Prosperous Financial Future

Recognizing that everyone could use a little free help understanding and managing their finances, last October, Raimondo, in partnership with the Providence-based Capital Good Fund, kicked off their financial empowerment initiative to provide guidance, though the Rhode Island Financial Coaching Corps, to provide free financial help to Rhode Islanders balance their home budgets, managing debt, building up credit and plan for their retirement.

According to Raimondo, becoming financially secure and taking care of your family can become tricky with the huge number of financial products available today. One can become confused with the different types of mortgage and banking products available, especially the proliferation of pay day loans, credit cards and reverse mortgages, she says. “If people are not careful they can be hit hard by hidden fees or hidden risks by choosing the wrong product,” she says.

Recently, Raimondo took her Smart Money Tour out on the road visiting local libraries, farmers markets and senior centers, “right into the community,” she says, noting that it might become a permanent initiative if it proves to be successful. At these locations treasury staff, through an online computer data base, (treasury.ri.gov/unclaimed) also helps people locate their lost or abandoned property for free. Unclaimed property includes items such as long forgotten bank accounts, stocks and dividends and life insurance claims. During the last fiscal year, Treasury returned more than $8 million to over 8,000 Rhode Islanders.

Supporting Common Goals

According to Executive Director Andy Posner, of the Providence-based Capital Good Fund, he met Raimondo during her campaign for Treasurer and found a kindred soul. She had similar interests in bringing financial literacy to Rhode Islanders and a desire to fight predatory practices (pay day loans that have interest rates of 260 percent and rent-to-own centers where consumers ultimately pay more than the product is worth).

Capital Good Fund trains volunteers, for the Empower RI initiative, in financial coaching techniques and provides them with curricula to use either in one-to-one sessions with employees at companies who contract for the service or to those interested in getting help, learning about this assistance at community events or through newspaper coverage or social service agencies.

Since the inception of the program over 200 Rhode Islanders have been helped, says Posner. Currently, the Financial Service Corps, has 17 active volunteers, he added.

Joining the Financial Coaching Corps

Jerry Leveille, a Burrillville resident, jumped at being a volunteer with the Financial Coaching Corps after reading the mission of Empower RI, “Moving Rhode Island forward – one person at a time – through financial empowerment.” The 68-year old retired banker, who served as a senior vice president and lending officer, had worked for over 51 years at Warwick-based Greenwood Credit Union.

Filling out the application at the Capital Good Fund, he was accepted, trained and now has worked with two clients.

In one case, Leveille stated that 83-year-old widow learned the art of balancing her checkbook after the death of her husband, who had managed the family’s household account, paying the bills for over 58 years. The woman still coping with the recent death of her husband only needed a couple of sessions to learn this financial skill.

Meanwhile, Leveille says that a 62-year old woman who worked for a large Rhode Island company for over 30 years made a personal decision to retire. She would later learn that this financial decision would reduce her income by a whopping 40 percent. This was combined with mortgage problems. The single older woman owed more on her family homestead than its market value. She could not get her out of state mortgage company to lower the eight percent interest rate or allow her to extend payments.

Before coming to Leveille “her only choice was to walk away from the mortgage or continue to work,” he said, noting that if this occurred the lender would most likely suffer a $60,000 loss. “As a volunteer I was not going to talk her out of retirement, it was not my role to do this. Ultimately, the Financial Coaching Corps. volunteer would refer his client to Rhode Island Housing who is in the process of negotiating a lower interest rate on her behalf.

“We must be very nonjudgmental when we work with our clients,” says Leveille, noting that humans do make mistakes they regret when making bad financial decisions. “We are there to be helpful. It is what it is and we try to find the appropriate solution,” he says when counseling client.

Cumberland resident, Randy Sacilotto, who serves as Navigant’s vice president of business and community development, joined Raimondo’s effort to ratchet up the state’s financial literacy knowledge. Sacilotto, with 21 years working for the credit union, also brings to his clients the expertise he gained from training to become a certified financial counselor, accredited by the National Credit Union Foundation.

Sacilotto, 52, has met with two individuals and one couple, teaching them how a household budget works and another couple on tips on refinancing their home.

Working on budgeting, Sacilotto told his clients to track the spending of “every penny,” for two to four weeks. Write everything down, he says, because you will learn where your money is spent.

“We don’t always actually know what we spend on things,” he says, and if you track your results, cutting spending on things you don’t need can allow you to put your money into more important things, like saving for a house,” notes Sacilotto.

Finding Satisfaction in Financial Problem Solving

Emerson Gardner, a retired manager of the New York-based Bank of America’s International Banking Office, brought this experience and working in the City’s AARP Money Management Program, to the Ocean State in 2010. Two years later he would join Raimondo’s Financial Coaching Corps.

One of the original volunteers, Gardner is already working on his fifth client (their ages range from early 30s to their 50s). “Any time you help a person get their credit rating up or confront their debt problems it begins with creating a budget,” he says, noting that people need to learn how to live within their incomes.

While Gardner’s clients profit from his expertise gleaned from his banking days and a Masters of Business Administration received from Harvard University, he benefits, too. “I get satisfaction in helping clients solve their problems.” The retiree likes the flexibility of the program, allowing him to decide who to take and when to schedule the counseling session.

“For a person who has financial skills and the time to give because they are retiring, it is a great thing to do,” quips Gardner.

Those interested in volunteering for the Financial Coaching Corps, or meeting with a financial coach should visit http://www.fcCorpss.org.

Pawtucket’s Smart Money Tour is scheduled for August 30, 2013, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the City’s Leon Mathieu Senior Center, 420 Main Street, Pawtucket RI.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based write who covers health care, aging and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com

The Best of…RSVP Provides Volunteer Opportunities Throughout Rhode Island

         Published July  2, 2001, Pawtucket Times

         A little bit of leisure activity, combined with a part-time job, with a little volunteering are just the right mix of ingredients to make Janet Catineault’s retirement years fulfilling.   

          At age 68, Catineault, who formerly was employed by Fuller Box Company in Central Falls and International Packaging in Pawtucket, now works as a part-time receptionist at the City ofPawtucket’sLeonMathieuSeniorCenter.  The semi-retired Pawtucket resident has joined 4,500 senior volunteers in Rhode Island who give time to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.  This federally funded program, authorized by Congress in 1971, helps people age 55 and older put their skills and live experience to work in their communities.  RSVP volunteers serve in a wide variety of organizations ranging from hospitals and nursing homes, youth recreational centers to local police stations, historic sites to education facilities.

         Serving as an RSVP volunteer at the Leon Mathieu Senior Center, Catineault has taken on the role of a friendly visitor an elderly woman.  “I took her out to visit different nursing homes,” said the RSVP volunteer, noting that a tour of these facilities allowed her older companion to have a choice in the selection of a facility.   Additionally, Catineault has served meals at the Pawtucket senior center and has assisted another homebound elderly person with shopping, banking, and housework.

         “I volunteer with RSVP because I enjoy helping people out,” Catineault tells The Times.  “I thought about doing this for years and now that I have a few extra hours, I do it.  When we visit seniors it gives them something to look forward to, a little lift for the day and makes them feel important,” she said.

          At the RSVP program, sponsored by Blackstone Valley Community Action Program (BVCAP), there are 43 volunteer sites throughout Pawtucket,Central Falls, Lincoln and Cumberland, noted Caleb Petrin, the nonprofit community action program’s RSVP Director. 

         According to Petrin, 183 seniors age 55 and over have signed up to give their time at 43 volunteer sites throughout Pawtucket,Central Falls,LincolnandCumberland.  These seniors put in approximately 6,000 volunteer hours in nursing homes, churches, senior centers, meal sites, historic sites, like Slater Mill, hospitals, along with assisting in educational outreach initiatives, tutoring and mentoring.

        From his office at BVCAP, Petrin along with a part-time staffer determine community needs, design programs, and finally recruit and place RSVP volunteers.  “Our RSVP program is specifically designed to get seniors to become more involved and to have a stake in their community,” he said, noting that the volunteers bring their life experiences and skills to improve the quality of life at the volunteer sites.

         Senior RSVP volunteers are recognized in a newsletter and at an annual recognition dinner, Petrin noted, adding that the event serves as a way for volunteers to share with each other their positive volunteer experiences.

         “One of our newest volunteer stations is atPawtucket’s Slater Mill Historic Site,” Petrin said.  “Now we have two RSVP volunteers who provide information about the historic mill  to visitors. These positions are going to be evolving from providing information into helping with programming and interpretation,” he added.   

       Vin Marzullo, Rhode Island Director of the Corporation for National Service, an independent federal agency responsible for overseeing the nation’s domestic volunteer programs and RSVP states that other RSVP offices are located in Cranston, East Providence, South Kingston, Providence, Kent County and Woonsocket.

       Marzullo stated that volunteer service time is valued at $ 13 per hour.  Thus, he calculates that volunteer service provided by 4,500 Rhode Island RSVP volunteers is valued at $6.5 million.

        RSVP volunteers are playing a tremendous community problem-solving role.   “The reality is our seniors are experienced, knowledgeable of the community and they’ve addressed so many life challenges and situations.  They can help so many people in need if they are given the opportunity, Marzullo said.

        Marzullo firmly believes that RSVP allows older Americans to be valued and continue their contributions to their communities. 

        Herbert P. Weiss is a Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based free lance writer covering aging, medical and health care issues.  This article was published in July 2, 2001 in the Pawtucket Times. He can be reached at hweiss@aol.com

The Best Of…Volunteer Baby Boomers Work to Uplift Their Communities

           Published September 17, 2008, All Pawetucket All the Time

           Throughout his life, Arthur Plitt has never seen a time when he has not expended lots of time and energy to support a good cause.  Over his fifty eight years, he has volunteered as a non-paid volunteer with dozens of nonprofit organizations throughout the Ocean State. The Oak Hill resident juggles a part-time job as a private mediator while allocating countless hours to his volunteer activities. 

             Two sons in Cub Scouts would propel the young man to take the volunteer position of Advancement Committee, chairman of the Boy Scouts of Rhode Island’s BlackstoneValley division.  A love of animals would also lead him to Roger Williams Zoo where he became a docent.  Plitt would also join the Rhode Island Jaycees and serve in its Senate and later work as an ombudsman for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care.

 Kudos the Plitt

            Plitt now sits on the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, heads the Pawtucket Neighborhood Alliance, and Oak Hill Neighborhood Association, serves on the Blackstone Watershed Council’s Board of Directors, and sits on the Pawtucket Arts Festival Executive Committee.  Still, the aging baby boomer still has time to work with the terminally ill as a Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island volunteer.  With 1,220 hours logged in this year supporting dying patients and their families it is no surprise that he was one of 12 statewide award winners of the Volunteer Center of Rhode Island’s 2008 outstanding volunteers.

             Plitt’s philosophical views on volunteerism can be simply summed up by his favorite phrase. That is, “The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.”  “Butterflies, like many species, accomplish much in their short life spans.  With longer life spans, human beings are given an opportunity to accomplish a lot more and they have the time to share”, says Plitt.    

             While Plitt works with a diverse group of nonprofit organizations, fifty-four year old Patricia Zacks focuses her time and efforts on supporting the arts in Pawtucket.  Over the years, this proprietor of the Providence-based camera shop, The Camera Werks has annually organized the City’s photo contest, brought photo workshops into several public schools and senior centers.  In addition, she serves on the Board of the Friends of Excellence in Art Education, chairs the Pawtucket Arts Festival’s Program Committee and sits on its Executive Committee, and assists and networks local artists to sell their one-of-a-kind art work at Open Studio events.

             In 2007, in recognition of her efforts to support Pawtucket artists Zacks was named President Emeritus of the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative when she stepped down after serving six years. That Year the Pawtucket Foundation the Oak Hill resident was the co-recipient of the group’s prestigious “Person of the Year” award. 

 Baby Boomers Volunteer at Higher Rates 

             Aging Baby Boomers, Plitt and Zacks, are not unique in their desire to give back to their local community.  According to a 2006 Issue Brief published by the Corporation for National & Community Service (NCS), today’s Baby Boomers volunteer at a higher rate than past generations did at roughly the same age.  Findings from the 2007 Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering (KBBV) report were cited throughout this NCS Issue Brief.

             The 2007 (KBBV) report noted that the volunteer rate for those ages 46 to 57 today, is significantly higher than both the 25.3 percent recorded by the 46 to 57 age cohort in 1974 (Greatest Generation, born 1910-1930) and the 23.2 percent recorded in 1989 (Silent Generation, born 1931-1945.)

             Additionally, the 2007 (KBBV) report also found that remaining in the workforce increased the likelihood that a Baby Boomer will continue to volunteer. 60.5 percent Baby Boomer volunteers who leave the workforce will continue to volunteer the following year compared to 69.3 percent who continue to work.

             The 2007 (KBBV) report also mentions two predictors of the relatively high volunteer rates of Baby Boomers: high education level and having children later in life. 

             Middle age adults are nearly three times likely to have a four-year college degree today.  When their children leave home the Boomers would maintain their high volunteer rates because of their high education levels and expectations that they will work longer, the report notes.

            The 2007 (KBBV) report notes that today’s Boomers, ages 41 to 59, are more likely to volunteer with religious organizations. The second most popular place to volunteer is educational or youth service organizations.

          Finally, the (KBBV) 2007 report findings indicate that the more hours a Baby Boomer devotes to volunteering, the more like he or she will volunteer throughout their lives.  Nearly 9 of 10 Baby Boomer volunteers who serve 100 to 499 hours a year volunteer again the following year, compared to just over 5 in 10 who serve 1 to 14 hours.

             Aging Baby Boomers Plitt and Zacks have brought their life experiences, time and energy to making their community a better place to live, just like millions of their Baby Boomer cohorts throughout the nation. 

             For more information about volunteering contact Volunteer Center of Rhode Island.  Go to www.vcri.org.

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based free lance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.   This article was published in the September 17, 2008 issue of All Pawtucket All the Time. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Volunteerism Leads to New Career Directions

           Published June 15, 2012, Pawtucket Times

           A growing number of aging baby boomers who volunteer on nonprofit boards may find their true calling when they retire.  Volunteering in your later years may lead to new, more exciting careers where passion, energy and love of mission bring about opportunities to serve your community. 

           Fifty two-year old Kathy Anzeveno, who specialized in early childhood development, taught for over 27 years in North Providence and The Gordon School inEast Providence.   Despite raising Joe, her 21 year old son, with her husband, Frank, theSouth Kingstownresident worked for the past nine years as a volunteer for the Matty Fund.  She now serves as the full-time Executive Director of the Wakefield,Rhode Islandnonprofit group, whose mission is to provide family resources, promote patient safety and improve the quality of life for children and families living with epilepsy.

           Nationally, epilepsy affects over three million people. Children United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) estimates that over 300,000 children with this disorder are under age 15, with up to 50,000 deaths occurring annually from prolonged seizures as well as seizure related accidents.

           According to Anzeveno, she made a decision to retire in her early fifties, and to make a difference in another area she was passionate about, one involving lifelong friends, Debra and Richard Siravo.  The Siravos lost their 5 year old son, Matthew, because of complications of epilepsy.  In recent years the organization had grown prompting the founders to need an Executive Director to oversee the implementation of the nonprofit group’s strategic plan, fundraise and implementation of its programs and services.  Over the years, the Siravos saw commitment and capability when Anzeveno came around to stuff envelopes, organize fundraisers and other activities.  The job offer was made…it was quickly accepted, too. 

          Anzeveno explained that the Siravos needed to do something positive in Matty’s memory that would allow families to connect personally with other families.  “The couple felt compelled to fulfill a need for families dealing with epilepsy.  For parents, there is nothing that compares to the suffering/guilt/uncertainty when a child is diagnosed with anything, let alone a potentially disabling disorder,” she said, stressing that some stigma is still attached to people with epilepsy, so parents are often times reluctant to share or acknowledge publically their child’s health issue.

         With years of volunteer work under her belt and expertise as an educator in child development, Anzeveno knew that there was an extreme need for the Matty Fund’s programs and services.  As a volunteer, she was especially touched by the families who, besides dealing their child experiencing regular and often severe seizures, had to tackle the added issues of developmental delays, physical impairments, as well as medication/treatment side effects.

The Matty Fund

         According to Anzeveno, from the tragedy of her personal, longtime friends, was born a foundation that truly helps families affected by epilepsy— started in the Siravo family basement, she remembers getting bruised from bumping into the foosball table while working on auction items for one of its first major fundraisers.  “We had donated items and sticky notes scattered everywhere,” she says.

        Five years ago, the fledgling nonprofit relocated from its basement headquarters to an office space in Wakefield, opening as a community resource center.  Anzeveno notes that just one month ago, The Matty Fund moved again, just down the hall to a larger space to accommodate its growing needs to serve as a hub for support groups, meetings and program activities.  Currently, there are 150 families in the nonprofit group’s data base, mostly Rhode Islanders. 

Assisting Young Children with Epilepsy

      Anzeveno and her volunteers will outreach to families with children with epilepsy, providing educational and emotional support.   Monthly group meetings will be held throughout theOceanState, in Lincoln, Warwick andWakefield.   Lecture series in acute care facilities will provide information to both families and health care professionals, too.

      The Matty Fund also holds a series of events including the Snow Angel Ball Dinner Dance and Auction, Matty’s 5k Run and Walk for Epilepsy, and the Matty’s Memorial Golf for Epilepsy, to fund the operations of the organization.   Funding also supports epilepsy research atBrownUniversity, providing scholarships for college bound students with epilepsy, as well as fundingCampMatty, a therapeutic riding summer day camp for youngsters with epilepsy.  Friendships are forged between families and their epileptic children at the pumpkin festival, egg hunts and at the Matty Hatty dance-athon held in schools around the state that promotes epilepsy awareness.  

            For many aging baby boomers, their job has just become a means to an end. In their later years they are working hard to economically keep afloat, to pay off a mortgage, to rising household costs, and to buy groceries.  Aging baby boomers know they will live a longer period of their lives in retirement then previous generations.  Like Anzeveno, many will seek out ways to become more fulfilled with their lives, by becoming a volunteer.  A new career path might even come about because they volunteered at a nonprofit, helping others and making their community a better place to live. 

          For more information about the Matty Fund call 401/789-7330 or go to www.MattyFund.org.

         Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, healthcare, and medical issues.  His Commentaries are published in two Rhode Island Daily’s The Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call.