Helping immigrants on the path to citizenship

“I want to do something that is going to help somebody,” Frank Pallone, RSVP volunteer.

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Story and Photo by Rob Paine, RSVP-Northern Virginia

When Frank Pallone retired after a 36-year career with the federal government, he still wanted to work.

After spending a year searching for another job, he became restless. He remembers telling himself, “This is going to drive me crazy, doing nothing,” he said. So he decided to embark into a career in volunteerism. His number one objective? “I want to do something that is going to help somebody,” Frank said.

It was then Frank attended an RSVP information session and found out about Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s Hogar Immigrant Services, a nonprofit whose mission is to help immigrants achieve self-sufficiency and participate fully in the greater community, which includes helping immigrants navigate the path to U.S. citizenship.

Frank said after talking with RSVP and learning about Hogar he was hooked. “I had never thought of volunteering with an organization that did anything with immigrants,” Frank said. “It just never occurred to me.”

Frank learned he could help teach a citizenship class and help prepare people to become a United States citizen. “That got me excited,” he said.

Since joining Hogar, he has worked with students from all over the world, including from Egypt, Mongolia and El Salvador. “It was very interesting listening to some of their stories,” he said. Frank has helped more than a dozen immigrants through the U.S. naturalization process.

“When a student becomes a citizen, it’s a life changing event,” Frank said. “Particularly if the student has family members who have already become citizens.”

Why is it important for seniors to volunteer? Frank points first to the ever-present need. “Other folks need help,” said Frank, who has been an RSVP volunteer for close to four years. He earned a President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work in 2016.

His advice to retirees looking to make a difference?

“I think RSVP is a great way to do it. You do not have to put in 3 or 4 or 6 hours a week. You can put in one or two hours a week, so there is some flexibility in what you can do,” he said.

More about RSVP Northern Virginia 

RSVP Northern Virginia, the largest volunteer group for seniors and retirees in the region,  offers more than 200 meaningful opportunities that include helping seniors age in place, assisting local veterans, and helping prepare communities for disasters. RSVP also recruits volunteers for various community events including the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics. 

RSVP volunteers enjoy flexible schedules, free accident and liability insurance while serving, optional mileage and meal reimbursement and are invited to volunteer group projects and social gatherings.

To sign up for an upcoming free RSVP seminar on senior volunteering please email RSVP Volunteer Specialist Carly Hubicki at or call RSVP at 703-403-5360. To learn more about RSVP, please visit  RSVP Northern  Virginia is program of Volunteer Fairfax,   Volunteer Arlington and Volunteer Alexandria.

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