Her children hope that one day she'll learn how to say "No," but that hasn't stopped Donna Pool from taking on new challenges. At the age of 61, she's just getting started.
After leaving her job as an analyst for Lockheed, Donna and her husband moved to rural Canyon Lake, Texas to relax. But, as she puts it, "I'd go crazy if I didn't have something constructive to do."
And so, a relationship with her local RSVP was formed.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is a program within Senior Corps that engages persons 55 and older with service. RSVP partners with nonprofits in various communities to provide a variety of opportunities.
Currently, the program operates in every state, and has over 500,000 older adult volunteers.
"Too often, folks retire and vegetate," says Donna. "They end up having too much time on their hands to think about themselves and all their illnesses and problems."
Staying active and involved has come naturally for Donna. While volunteering with a local nonprofit in Canyon Lake, she was invited by the director of RSVP to become the volunteer coordinator for the America Reads Project. She resisted, because she "loved being just a volunteer, but he was persistent," she recalls.
America Reads pairs adult tutors with students who are reading below grade level. The program hopes to have every student reading at grade level by the time they reach third grade. "If a child struggles with reading, she will have difficulties with other subjects as well," says Donna. "Reading is the basis for all studies."
Since taking on the position with America Reads in 2002, Donna has also served as director on the board of both the local volunteer fire department, and the community recreation center. And if that weren't enough, she's currently president of her homeowners association. It's no surprise that she has been awarded Canyon Lake's "Lady of the Year" by Beta Sigma Phi, in recognition for her service.
While her accomplishments are many, Donna values her work with America Reads above all because she gets to help older adults find a meaningful way to spend their time -- helping struggling students. "I have a brother with dyslexia," Donna says. "He wasn't diagnosed until he was in middle school. By that time, he was so behind and discouraged that he quit school. A program like America Reads would have greatly benefited him."
Currently, the Canyon Lake America Reads Program has 38 volunteers, half of whom are retired teachers who want to stay active in education.
Since RSVP is all about volunteering, Donna and other volunteer coordinators rely on services like VolunteerMatch to help them reach out. The trick, says Donna, is to "use those keywords! Think about what would attract you to a volunteer position, and develop your ads from that perspective."
At the end of this May, Donna plans to leave her position with America Reads to travel the country with her husband in their RV. A testament to her involvement with RSVP and her belief that "keeping seniors active keeps them healthy," Donna's plans include seeing all of the beautiful things that this country has to offer.
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