They call themselves RSVP, and they want to be known simply as RSVP, the acronym for the French respondez s'il vous plait, as in respond if you please.
But by any other name, they are volunteers aged 55-plus who have contributed close to 100,000 hours of service to Westchester County non-profit organizations. And more than 320 of them were honored Wednesday during the Volunteer Center of United Way's 38th annual recognition luncheon at the Hilton Rye Town hotel in Rye Brook.
The honorees ranged from Armonk's Stanley Simon, who holds interview resource workshops at Westchester Community College, to Larchmont's Lois Steinberg and Rob Waldman, who work with Aging in Place, specializing in helping the elderly navigate the medical system at the Medicaid Rights Center.
The honorees varied in age from 55 to 100 and represented just some of the more than 920 RSVP volunteers who dedicated nearly 100,000 hours of service, an equivalent of $3.5 million, according to The Independent Sector.
While RSVP volunteers represented less than 5 percent of the 18,000 volunteers tracked in 2010, they contributed a remarkable 42 percent of the total value of all volunteer services generated by The Volunteer Center of United Way, based in Tarrytown.
"The impact of our RSVP members is not to be underestimated," said New Rochelle's Alisa Kesten, executive director of the Volunteer Center. "They are truly 'power' volunteers and a vital resource to the county's nonprofits and to residents in need—from children struggling with reading to organizations searching for leaders to develop strategic organizational plans."
Kesten, a former strategic planner in communications, said the impact of their volunteer efforts is needed now more than ever in the current economic climate when non-profit organizations find their budgets shrinking and their grants evaporating.
"The RSVP luncheon is one way we show our appreciation for their efforts that are priceless, and it was a phenomenal success," Kesten said after the luncheon.
She explained that, since 1972, The Volunteer Center has recruited and engaged RSVP members who have rolled up their sleeves and focused their time, experiences and commitment where it matters most.
RSVP, one of the largest volunteer efforts in the nation, is a program of the Corporation for National & Community Service, is sponsored locally by The Volunteer Center, she said.
RSVP is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, New York State Office for the Aging and the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs & Services, according to Kesten.
She was impressed by lots of things about the luncheon, she commented, from guest speakers Commissioner of Westchester County Senior Department & Programs Mae Carpenter to Dr. George S. Goldstein, chairman, RSVP Advisory Committee, to the volunteers themselves.
Reporter Lisa LaRocca of News 12 served as Mistress of Ceremonies during the luncheon that included dancing to live music provided by The Quentin Solano Trio. Their performance was made possible by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, County of Westchester, and by the Recording Companies of America through the Music Performance Trust agreement with the American Federation of Musicians. The grant for this Performance was obtained with the cooperation of Local 38/398.
Members of Purchase's Manhattanville College golf team came down to serve as dance partners for vols who needed them, a community service that Manhattanville has provided for several years now with various athletic team members participating. And the Greenburgh Evergreen Club sent a group of Chinese-American members, aged 55-plus, to perform traditional Chinese dances.
Supporters for the 38th Annual RSVP Recognition Luncheon included: Corporation for National and Community Service, Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation, New York State Office for the Aging, TD Bank Foundation, and Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services.
"We can't really put a price on the value of what the RSVP volunteers do for non-profit organizations," said Kesten. "But given what the current economic downturn is doing to non-profits, their volunteer efforts are priceless."