On the one hand, they will be celebrating all of the work they’ve done over the past year with a community expo at the Grand Center. But they’ll do so knowing that the program’s future is uncertain, after the Grand County Council voted 5-2 in January to relinquish county sponsorship of RSVP, effective March 31.
Although the expo is being billed as a farewell party, RSVP Director Jody Ellis is optimistic that attendees will find other ways to keep older residents engaged in community service projects.
Ellis sees the event as a chance for volunteers, participating organizations and others to network amongst themselves and coordinate future activities.
“Hopefully, we can make some connections,” she told The Times-Independent.
This year’s event will also give volunteer-driven organizations the chance to get their names out in the forefront, she said.
“You need to attend because the community cannot support you if they don’t know what you do,” she said.
By now, all of the program’s volunteers and partners should have received notices that RSVP’s office will shut down once the current grant period comes to an end on March 31.
The program came to rely heavily on the county in recent years, following congressionally approved cuts to federal grant funding.
During the current grant period, for example, the county chipped in with $50,113 each year, or 71 percent of the program’s total annual budget.
That’s far beyond the 10 to 30 percent in matching contributions that sponsoring entities are required to make, according to Ellis.
Despite its past support for the program, the county’s budget for the current fiscal year did not include additional funding to keep RSVP going beyond late March.
A majority of county council members subsequently voted to relinquish support for the program, although several of them said they would pursue other options to coordinate senior volunteer activities.
Council member Elizabeth Tubbs, who joined Ken Ballantyne in opposing the council’s action, has since asked the board to revisit the issue at a future meeting.
Council chairman Lynn Jackson called Tubbs’ suggestion a great idea.
“I think that we made commitments to keep the program whole,” Jackson said. “I think we should honor that.”
Anyone who would like to help out is encouraged to attend the March 5 volunteer event at the Grand Center, which is located at 182 North 500 West. The event will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.