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Senior Corps-RSVP of HandsOn Suburban Chicago Honors Local Volunteers at Annual Member Recognition Brunch

2018 May 16
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

For Immediate Release:

Arlington Heights, IL, May 16, 2018 – One hundred seventy volunteers representing 62 local agencies will gather at the Metropolis Ballroom in Arlington Heights on Thursday, May 16, 2018 to be recognized for outstanding service in their communities. The First Bank of Highland Park, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago, the Sion Club, and the HandsOn Suburban Chicago Board of Directors are sponsoring the brunch.

The volunteers are largely members of Senior Corps-RSVP of Northern Cook and Northern DuPage counties which is sponsored by HandsOn Suburban Chicago. Senior Corps-RSVP one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over and has been engaged in this area for 46 years.

Local Senior Corps-RSVP members, including those not in attendance, have given 75,000 hours of volunteer service this past year to nonprofits, schools, and local governments. The members provided assistance with transportation, meal delivery, healthcare, tax preparation, home repair, and adult and youth education in addition to fulfilling many other community needs.

“This is an event that all of us at HandsOn Suburban Chicago look forward to each year. It’s a time to recognize and thank all of you that give so much back to our communities by volunteering.” said Jordan Friedman, Executive Director of HandsOn Suburban Chicago.

About HandsOn Suburban Chicago

HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC) positively impacts communities by connecting people to enriching volunteer experiences. It serves over 150 nonprofits in 44 communities, making over 6,500 volunteer connections over the past year. HOSC sponsors Senior Corps-RSVP of Northern Cook and Northern DuPage counties and also runs a number of school tutoring and mentoring programs, utilizing the power of volunteers to help keep disadvantaged youth on track to graduate high school.

 

Two hundred people attended this year’s annual Senior Corps-RSVP Member recognition brunch in Arlington Heights.

 

Press Contacts:

Jordan Friedman
Executive Director
HandsOn Suburban Chicago
847-228-1320 X 111
jordan@handsonsuburbanchicago.org

Carolyn Roberts
Project Director, Senior Corps-RSVP
HandsOn Suburban Chicago
847-228-1006 X 114
carolyn@handsonsuburbanchicago.org

Senior Corps Week Spotlight on Service: RSVP member brings Pen Pals program to Wheeling elementary school

2018 May 2
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

When Janet Isaacman, a Senior Corps-RSVP volunteer tutor at Tarkington Elementary School in Wheeling, learned about the new Senior Corps-RSVP Pen Pals Program, she saw an opportunity for the school’s fourth and fifth graders to improve their writing skills as well as their grades.

Janet Isaacman, a Senior Corps-RSVP member who volunteers as a Pen Pal and tutor.

Pen Pals volunteers write to third-, fourth- or fifth-grade students (one school in Palatine, the other in Des Plaines) and the children write back. It’s a way for children to have another adult in their lives through letters, and an opportunity for adults to learn what children are experiencing in today’s world. Janet became so engaged in Pen Pals, that she suggested the program to the Tarkington School principal and fifth grade teacher. Because she had a long-time positive relationship with them they were open to hearing about it. The main selling point-kids would actually gain experience in writing letters.

Janet didn’t stop there. She recruited adult volunteers for the program and they in turn found other letter writers. One of the main selling points is that the Pen Pals only commit to about an hour or two a month. At the end of the school year the “pals” meet face-to-face for the first time to work on a project together, or have lunch.

In both tutoring and the Pen Pals program, Janet enjoys children’s honesty and their willingness to share their true feelings. “No games,” she says. “Nobody is trying to impress anyone…What they think is what they say.”

She often challenges the students to reach a higher level of thinking than merely giving simple answers on the material they’ve read, by posing thought-provoking questions.

“We have book discussions,” she explained. “I ask questions such as ‘What would you ask the author if you met them?’ or ‘If you could change the title of the book what title would you give it?'”

She’s been tutoring second and fourth grade students for the past eight years, four hours a day, two days a week. It’s the rewards that keep her going. She has students with autism, extreme shyness or difficult home situations. Yet through her efforts to guide and focus on their fears and anxieties, she has managed to help improve their grades and also builds up close relationships with them. She sees herself more as a mentor than a tutor.

Carolyn Roberts, Senior Corps-RSVP Project Director says of Janet: “She takes a very prominent leadership position behind those things for which she has tremendous passion…Janet’s passion for the overall welfare and education of children is evident. As a Senior Corps-RSVP member volunteering in the Pen Pals program, Janet’s focus is on broadening the exposure of her student Pen Pals by encouraging them to read more and learn about far-away places.”

Janet advises those interested in the Pen Pals program to remember it doesn’t take a lot of time, or even skill, but volunteers know that students will see the value of written communications. In simple and often delightful sentences, children tell about their holiday celebrations, their families and favorite subject in school. They’re interested in the lives of their adult pals too. Along the way, friendships are forged.

The best part is when Pen Pals meet in the spring, before school ends. As volunteers enter the classroom, children jump up from their seats shouting “Yay! The Pen Pals are here!” Then come greetings and hugs all around.

That’s an incentive in itself.

Click here for more information on Pen Pals.

Spotlight written by Janet Souter, Senior Corps-RSVP Member

Senior Corps Week Celebrates Senior Volunteers

2018 May 1
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that oversees Senior Corps, will celebrate the valuable contributions made by older volunteers during the eighth annual Senior Corps Week, taking place April 29 – May 5 during Older Americans Month.

Today, Senior Corps engages approximately 220,000 Americans at 25,000 locations across the nation through its Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and RSVP programs. For more than five decades, Senior Corps volunteers have used their skills and experience to mentor and tutor youth, help other adults maintain independence in their homes, connect veterans and military families to services, and more.

“Americans are living longer and achieving even more,” said Deborah Cox-Roush, director of Senior Corps. “Through service, older adults are transforming society and addressing some of the toughest problems facing our nation such as fighting the opioid epidemic and rebuilding communities following disasters. I salute the Senior Corps volunteers leading these efforts and thank them for their commitment to serve their community and country,”
From administering the Senior Corps pledge to issuing proclamations, elected officials, community leaders, and organizations will honor Senior Corps volunteers at recognition events and service projects throughout the week.  

A growing body of research points to mental and physical health benefits associated with volunteering and a new study from Senior Corps builds upon this research. Preliminary findings released last summer show that after just one year of service, Senior Corps volunteers reported improved health after, including decreased anxiety and depression, loneliness and social isolation, enhanced physical capacity, and higher life satisfaction. The final study will be released in the summer of 2018.

The dedicated Senior Corps volunteers join the more than 21 million Americans 55+ who contribute more than 3.3 billion hours of service in their communities according to the annual Volunteering and Civic Life in America report by CNCS.  Their collective service provides a yearly economic benefit with an estimated value of $78 billion.

To learn more about how to become a Senior Corps volunteer or find a program in your community, visit nationalservice.gov.

Re-posted from https://www.nationalservice.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/senior-corps-week-celebrates-senior-volunteers

Proclamation issued by Governor Bruce Rauner of the State of Illinois recognizing Senior Corps Week and the positive impact Senior Corps volunteers have on their communities throughout the state.

Village of Palatine Recognizes Senior Corps-RSVP Volunteers for National Service Recognition Day 2018

2018 April 3

In honor of National Service Recognition Day, Mayor Jim Schwantz & the Village of Palatine Council presented our Senior Corps-RSVP program with a proclamation recognizing the service of Senior Corps-RSVP members who volunteer throughout the Palatine community.

Currently, there are 65 Palatine residents who are active SC-RSVP members. These members join over 650 other members who volunteer with various community partners across 44 communities in Northern Cook and Northern DuPage Counties.

Receiving the Proclamation from Mayor Schwantz (left) were Jordan Friedman, Executive Director (HOSC), Anne Wall, SC-RSVP member and volunteer with the Lunch Buddies & Pen Pal programs at Jane Addams Elementary School, Carolyn Roberts, SC-RSVP Program Director (HOSC) and Amy Molinsky, Principal at Jane Addams.

Senior Corps-RSVP member’s skills have stretched around the world

2018 March 16
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

After Joyce Adomitis retired from her career as a special education teacher in 2004, she took a year to regroup and then knew it was time to do something more with her life. Giving her time to others was uppermost in her mind. Her search connected her to Warm Blankets Orphan Care (WBOC)-a group that provides for children with no family or caregivers-in Africa, Asia, Central America, and the Dominican Republic. WBOC saw her talent for compassion and her special ability to resonate with people in need.

Joyce playing cards with children during a mission trip in 2012.

“They saw something in me that I didn’t,” she said. Warm Blankets evolved into Kinship United, a faith-based organization in Rolling Meadows which serves in previously war-torn or developing countries, helping to rebuild communities who can, in turn, care for orphans and widows by creating networks of churches and rescue centers.

Since then, Joyce, a Senior Corps-RSVP member, has worn several hats, giving of herself whenever and wherever she’s needed. Over the years the needs have taken her to Cambodia, Kenya and Uganda. She integrates into the lives of local children, playing with them, taking pictures, helping to obtain medical, educational and sheltering coverage for them. In other words, skills that are never out of date. And even though Joyce doesn’t speak the language in any of the countries she visits, she’s given an interpreter, but as she says, “They know I’m speaking from the heart so we just seem to communicate.”

“In these developing countries,” Joyce explains, “many children have lost their parents or any family member able to watch over them. They are constantly in danger of being taken. They are not even allowed to travel long distances to get water for fear that they may not return. That’s why volunteers support Kinship United’s work placing children in a home or rescue center. The paper trail is established with each child’s identity, medical records, family history, etc. The whole idea is to make sure a child has support, love and care.”

Her fondest memories include times when she sees a child new to a home or waiting to come into a home during the certification process. They’re quiet and obviously scared, nervous or withdrawn. “Then I see that same child a year later,” she says “and I see a transformation from fear and lack of hope to ‘cheeky.’ They’ve blossomed.”

Kinship United’s Director of Orphan Rescue Operations, Christine Fragoso, says of Joyce: “From the moment she arrives at a Kinship home until the moment she leaves, she is surrounded by children, engaging them all with games, toys, treats, and most importantly the special attention and love she has for each and every one.”

Joyce stops for a photo with one of the children she helped care for during a mission trip.

Although her traveling is now limited, Joyce’s enthusiasm and devotion to the program hasn’t diminished. She helps at Annie’s Resale for the World in Palatine which also supports Kinship United, through its sales or by hosting fundraisers. She helps keep the shop going by doing the essentials, including cleaning, sorting or working with people in need. Her jewelry creations (Yes, she makes jewelry too!) are sold at Annie’s and these sales help pay for equipment used by Kinship’s mission programs.

Joyce was especially excited last October when Annie’s Resale for the World hosted an extremely successful fundraiser. As a representative for Kinship United, she sold $731 worth of jewelry (from her own collection and handmade). Annie had planned that the proceeds would fund a baking oven for a church home in Uganda, but that week, its large, main printer, necessary for all their outreach needs, completely broke down. They were quite alarmed. Annie’s Resale dedicated the funds to the printer rather than to an oven.

Lately, Joyce has been putting in a few hours a week at Kinship United, but if a mission trip is scheduled, then she’s there, helping mission volunteers pack, send emails, or any other necessary details for travel to a strange and sometimes difficult environment.

Joyce has a simple philosophy for anyone who volunteers: “Take a risk. Think ‘How can I make another person’s life a little better?’ I try to remember if I don’t show up, someone will be hurt.”

For those interested in serving at Kinship United, Laura Lapp, the volunteer coordinator, is asking for a volunteer who can come in once a week to help with donor relations…sending out personalized mailings and thank you notes to supporters.

If interested in volunteering with Kinship United or Annie’s Resale for the World click on the links below to get connect:

Senior Corps-RSVP Read to Learn tutors also serve as goodwill ambassadors

2018 February 6
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

Most people who volunteer will tell you they get back as much as they give. But the Senior Corps-RSVP members that tutor with Township High School District 214’s Community Education Read to Learn (RTL) program feel they get so much more. For two-and-a-half hours each week, these tutors work one-on-one with students from other nations, helping them to improve their English and adjust to life in the United States. They see it as a chance to show these newcomers the best America has to offer. They find joy in helping their pupils navigate through the complexities of the English language (including American slang.)

Lillian Clinton, right, has been with RTL since 2002 and as an ambassador invites the RTL staff to speak at various functions in an effort to promote awareness of Read to Learn.

Lillian Clinton, a Senior Corps-RSVP member and RTL tutor for nearly sixteen years, says, “We’re building relationships from country to country. That makes me feel good.”

When some students start the class, they may know enough to communicate in simple sentences, but need help in learning who to call in an emergency, ordering from a restaurant menu, or communicating with their neighbors. Others hope to improve their employment situation. Still others want to have an active role in their children’s education.

Previous teaching experience is not a requirement for RTL instructors. Before the start of each semester, all new tutors must attend eight hours of training for one day. Returning tutors are offered two hours of updated training which covers various creative ways in which English can be taught.

During the ten-week fall and spring semesters, volunteers receive a wealth of support from the RTL site managers and staff.

A typical RTL class can start out with announcements from the RTL site manager, who is always on hand to answer questions or address concerns. Tutors and students then work on the students’ goals using handouts that can include worksheets on grammar or stories about American daily life. There’s even a monthly publication titled Easy English News, which highlights and explains current events. Students are given books such as The Wizard of Oz (written in shorter and simply-constructed sentences) and asked to read and write a report weekly on each chapter. They also keep a journal on their activities during the week, which the tutors can use as a subject for discussion, helping the student with any issues they’ve experienced living in the United States. The final half-hour is devoted to group conversation with other tutors and students about anything from celebrating holidays to favorite foods and vacations and more. 

Mike McGinley center volunteers at the Schaumburg Library and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Schaumburg and always works with at least two adult learners at a time.

These pupils are dedicated and eager to learn and improve their English. Senior Corps-RSVP member, Mike McGinley, has been with RTL for about twelve years. Mike says, “Some students enjoy classic tales. Others would get more out of a magazine or newspaper. Many of the students enjoy a good cookbook. One student’s goal was to read Danielle Steele novels. Another needed to understand technical manuals.” He especially enjoys communicating with the students and finds they often have insightful perspectives on the world.

Mike said his most inspiring student was a woman whose husband became ill and she needed to learn better English to find a good job.  He helped her write a resume and she found a sales position at Woodfield. Later, she earned a degree from Elgin Community College. 

Bob Kacprowicz has tutored at the Schaumburg Library since 2009 arriving early to help set up so tutors and students feel welcome when they attend class.

Bob Kacprowicz, another ten-year veteran, and Senior Corps-RSVP member, enjoys getting to know the students he works with. “I start out by finding out what they like, also their families…I learned a lot from them, their country, schools, etc. I just like being around people.” 

Some tutors spend additional time with their students outside of class, although that is not required or expected. Lillian usually takes her pupil out socially at the end of a semester. Bob had a student who wanted to learn how to take the train downtown. He met her at the station and showed her how to buy a ticket. They visited the Cultural Center, the Art Institute, and the Chicago Public Library and, Bob said, “Had a great time.” 

Some have formed lifelong friendships with their students even after the students have returned home. Lillian still hears from her first student, who is now back in Japan. “She always sends a lovely gift,” she said. “It warms my heart.” 

Bob’s advice for those considering signing up for RTL: “If you’re thinking about it, forget about thinking, do it! You already know you want to. Try it. You won’t come out the same.” Lillian, Mike and Bob all agree the rewards are well worth the time spent with these newcomers to our country. 

The 2018 Read to Learn sessions are held at various locations including Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Schaumburg, Wheeling and Rolling Meadows. For the upcoming Spring Session, tutors may choose training classes held on Friday, January 26 or Saturday, January 27 at Forest View Educational Center, Arlington Heights. RTL Spring Sessions start early February and continue into April. 

Tutors are still needed for the Spring Session, to volunteer, click on the link: District 214 Community Education Read to Learn Adult Education Family Literacy Program

London Middle School Makes Holiday Cards and Donates Them to Local Social Service Organizations

2017 December 20

HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC) partnered with London Middle School on a service learning project this December that benefited three local social service agencies.

Students at the Wheeling school learned about homelessness through a lesson created by HOSC and then completed a project where they put their newfound knowledge to use.

The students created and decorated holiday themed greeting cards filled with messages of compassion and hope for local clients of three different nonprofit agencies and HOSC community partners: Wings – a domestic violence shelter and counseling agency, Northwest Compass – an agency providing emergency help to those that are vulnerable or in crisis, and Maryville Academy – which provides guidance, structure, and stability for children, young adults, and their families or support networks.

The students made over 200 cards as well as bookmarks and vases with homemade flowers that were also donated.

See some of the photos below!

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Senior Corps-RSVP members show how to make the most out of volunteering

2017 November 2
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

Ask people in their late fifties or early sixties how they plan on spending their golden years and one of the answers might be, “I’ll do some volunteering.” Ask them what kind of volunteering and they may say, “I don’t know, something.” That’s where Senior Corps-RSVP members Karen Zmrhal and Kay Haubenreiser come in. They are often the first people a senior meets when making a commitment to serve the community. These ladies help prospective volunteers find the service areas that will match their skills, give the most satisfaction and, in particular, the most enjoyment.

Karen Zmrhal (right), Senior Corps-RSVP member and Volunteering 101 instructor.

They do this through the HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC) 90-minute Volunteer 101 program which is usually presented at area libraries and their office in Arlington Heights.  The program focuses on why people volunteer and the benefits of volunteering, but also counsels individuals on selecting the best volunteer fit, keeping in mind their skills and where they will find the greatest satisfaction The program ends by showing attendees how to navigate the HOSC web site, www.HandsOnSuburbanChicago.org,  so they can zero in on the field they find most appealing and sign up. There are over 180 nonprofits listed so the search may appear daunting, but Karen and Kay instruct in such a way that by the end of the session participants are comfortable with the database structure. The ladies love what they do and it shows. Even they are perfect examples of matching the volunteers to the job.

Karen can speak from her own experience. Her background is teaching. She taught Microsoft Office at Harper for many years and served on the board of HOSC when it was The Volunteer Center. When she retired full-time she began searching for places to volunteer. At HOSC they said “Volunteer here.” So she became a “jack-of-all trades,” setting up their computer network and backup data. She also taught Microsoft Office for the staff and still handles various computer projects on Wednesdays.
Karen says an essential part of volunteering is, “learning how to volunteer.” She emphasizes that the goal is to get to people and give them a reason to serve. In some cases, she feels, “It can even combat depression.” She often reminds new volunteers that they’re not just volunteers, they are using their skills and sharing their skills with the community.

“Most important,” she says, “is to do the type of volunteering you enjoy. If you find a type of service is not for you, tell the Senior Corps-RSVP staff. There are so many needs that there is bound to be something that is a good fit.”

Karen noted that some volunteers want to be surrounded by people; others want to “sit in a corner and work,” such as addressing envelopes. She tells the story of one man who, after being in the corporate world for several years, said he wasn’t looking for anything “where I have to think.” When he spotted the Meals on Wheels listing he knew he had come to the right place. Another man at one of the outreach events wanted to read to seniors. He was connected to a specific agency and paired up with a client the following day.

Kay Haubenreiser, Senior Corps-RSVP member, instructing class participants to search for volunteer opportunities.

Kay’s background covers several areas, including twenty years of marketing at AT&T and Motorola. After a hiatus to take on family responsibilities, she decided to study the field of gerontology, since she had enjoyed serving at hospitals and nursing homes when she was younger. She earned a Masters Certificate in Gerontology and is now halfway through a gerontology master’s degree program.  When she worked as a volunteer coordinator for a hospice partner organization, she got to see firsthand how valuable HOSC is to the community and was impressed at its extensive knowledge of volunteer management and commitment to volunteers and partners. When she retired, she decided to be part of it.

“HOSC’s Volunteer 101 program inspired me in the same way,” she says. “To reach people who were seeking information on how to serve others and in this case, the community.  HOSC’s partners are engaged in many worthwhile activities. This was a way to support several causes at once.”

When asked what she enjoys most when teaching Volunteer 101 classes, she said, “I am humbled by the number of people who attend the Volunteer 101 program with a sincere desire to volunteer and make the world a better place. They are interested and committed, making the effort to come to a program, learn more and connect with organizations needing their assistance. They impact people’s lives through their generous gift of time, talent and presence.”

Even if you have been volunteering for many years, we invite you to attend a Volunteer 101 class. Our next class March 22, 2018 at Forest View Educational Center, Arlington Heights from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

With the holiday season almost upon us, even current volunteers might be interested in knowing there will be many one-time opportunities for serving, whether it’s helping at special-needs holiday parties, adopting a family or wrapping presents for the various charities in the area. The list should be out soon.

Visit www.handsonsuburbanchicago.org for more information.