Story and Photos by Rob Paine, RSVP-Northern Virginia marketing and outreach specialist
“Volunteering is a good way to keep social,” says RSVP-Northern Virginia volunteer and engagement leader Sue Dussinger of Alexandria. “I have never in my life been a real ‘joiner’ but once you get into it (volunteering) you can’t stop. I love interacting with people.”
Dussinger began her RSVP journey in 2016 after volunteering at an information booth alongside an RSVP staff member at the annual City of Fairfax Fall Festival.
“It started me off knowing that I wanted to do more with RSVP,” Dussinger said of the experience.
Prior to joining RSVP, Dussinger had more than a decade of volunteer work under her belt with Volunteer Fairfax’s Volunteers for Change program which she says she thoroughly enjoyed.
Would you like to learn the “Art of Volunteering in Retirement?” In November, RSVP will holding two free “Art of Volunteering in Retirement” seminars including Nov. 6, at 1:30 p.m., at the Sherwood Regional Library in the Alexandria Area of Fairfax County, and one November 18th, at 1:30 p.m., at James Lee Community Center in Falls Church. To register for either of these events, please visit www.rsvpnova.org or call the RSVP hotline at 703-403-5360.
RSVP-Northern Virginia (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program), the region’s largest volunteer network for those 55-years-old and better, provides personalized support to seniors and retirees seeking meaningful and fun service experiences. RSVP-Northern Virginia is a unique program offered through a collaboration of local volunteer centers; Volunteer Fairfax, Volunteer Alexandria and Volunteer Arlington.
“I get more benefit (from volunteering) than the people I’m helping,” Dussinger says. “If that sounds selfish well…but I know I’m helping people. It really helps you (as a volunteer) grow a little bit.”
While at RSVP Dussinger’s experiences have ranged from coordinating a monthly group service project at River Farm in Alexandria to helping in the resume review room at the annual 50+ Employment Expo each spring in Northern Virginia. She is also a regular volunteer driver for Fairfax County’s Volunteer Solutions.
RSVP offers more than 300 meaningful opportunities that include helping seniors age in place, assisting local food pantries, and teaching financial literacy. RSVP also recruits volunteers for various community events including the annual Northern Virginia Senior Olympics which just wrapped up in late September.
Several of RSVP’s nonprofit partners offer opportunities in the Alexandria Area including Volunteer Alexandria, New Hope Housing, River Farm- the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society, The American Red Cross and United Community.
While RSVP volunteers enjoy flexible schedules, free accident and liability insurance (while serving) and optional mileage and meal reimbursement, for most RSVP members, the social component of volunteering- the opportunity to stay connected- is key.
“I just cannot say enough about how much volunteering has benefited me,” Dussinger says.
Dussinger, who after retiring in 2012 began working as a fitness specialist at a local health club, also points to the health benefits of being a senior volunteer. “You really need to stay active. You need to keep moving as seniors,” she says.
She became interested in becoming an RSVP engagement leader after working with Ken Kozloff at the 2017 Northern Virginia Senior Olympics.
“I just liked the idea of helping to coordinate and to make it (the event) a good experience for the volunteers” she says.
Why does Dussinger recommend volunteering with RSVP?
“I have been involved with two RSVP volunteer coordinators and both are excellent. I think that is where it starts. “They seem to seek out opportunities for us and they are laid out beautifully in our newsletter so you get to choose. There will probably be something that will interest you. They (the volunteer specialists) look for different opportunities because they know we are different people, Dussinger says.
“I think I can honestly say I have never regretted going on a single volunteer project. That is a huge thing to be able to say,” she adds. “You meet the most wonderful people.”