Looking for a way to give back and stay connected in your community? Research shows that older adults benefit physically, mentally, and emotionally by volunteering. The City of El Paso offers the following opportunities to senior volunteers who are willing to share their talents, experiences, and skills throughout El Paso County:
El Paso’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) can help you put your skills, experience, and talent to work. You’ll not only make new friendships with people in the community you will also make a significant difference in the lives of others.
We place individuals, aged 55 and up, in more than 30 community organizations, helping with pressing issues such as food security, companionship, respite care, transportation, and social support.
RSVP has been part of the community of El Paso since 1974. Currently, there are more than 600 active volunteers in the program that offer their time at over 30 organizations.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is:
Lorraine Hernandez, Volunteer Program Specialist (915) firstname.lastname@example.orgNoemi Saldana, Volunteer Program Specialist(915) 212-1684SaldanaN@elpasotexas.govOr email@example.com
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The purpose of the program is to provide volunteer opportunities to income-eligible seniors who become matched foster grandparents to preschool and school-aged children.
DOES NOT AFFECT SOCIAL SECURITY OR INCOME BASED ASSISTANCE
Robert Heredia, Volunteer Program Coordinator(915) 212-1677HEREDIARX1@ELPASOTEXAS.GOV
With Established focus areas, FGP volunteers can serve at one of our 55 sites through El Paso:
Foster Grandparent Program helps students at Hambric receive extra one-on-one help.
If you happen to walk a particular hall at Jane A. Hambric School, you may notice a few first-graders calling out to "Grandma." It's not a particularly unusual thing until you notice that an entire class is calling the same person "Grandma."
Olga Valenzuela is not the actual grandmother of all those students, but she is a volunteer of the Foster Grandparent Program. According to counselor Karina Cataldi, the project has been a success at Hambric for over ten years.
"I love this program," she says. "She really becomes a surrogate grandma. They become really attached to her and this really improves their learning."
Grandma Valenzuela says that for some reason, a grandma figure is more approachable to students.
"We've only been together a few weeks, but they are comfortable with me and I'm comfortable with them," she says. "They don't hesitate to come up to me and ask me things."
The Foster Grandparent Program is an endeavor of the City of El Paso's Community & Human Development Department, funded by Americorps, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, and the City of El Paso. Schools requesting a Foster Grandparent simply contact the Program to request a volunteer. The program then tries to locate a trained volunteer who lives in the school's area. Amy B. Rivera, a first-grade teacher at Hambric, knew about the program and requested a Grandma for her class.
"Younger students want to make sure they are doing the work right," she says. "So I'll have about eight of them showing me their work or asking me questions all at the same time. Grandma helps with that. Some of the kids will go to her."
Grandma Valenzuela agrees with Rivera's assessment completely. She says it's very easy for her to help the children with their requests.
"Sometimes they ask simple questions like 'What color should this be' or 'What's the next letter in this word,'" she says. "They just want reassurance."
And almost on cue, first-grader Taylor Meno approached Grandma to benefit from that extra spelling help.
"Grandma helps us if we have trouble spelling words," she says. "She helps us to listen too."
But it is obvious the effect Grandma has on the entire class is more than academic, as witnessed by the number of hugs she received upon her departure from class. Foster Grandmas volunteer four hours a day.
"She's a great-grandma," says first-grader Kimberly Rodriguez. "She helps us when we need help and she reads us books. She's so nice."
Grandma Valenzuela says that although it may seem like the children are the only ones benefiting from the program, she too is a beneficiary.
"I retired in 2003 and thought I was going to stay home and do lots of things around the house," she says. "I retired in May and was bored by August. So I enrolled in the Foster Grandparent Program and started in September of 2003. The kids keep you going. They tell me things that make me laugh every day."