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RSVP volunteers take part in MLK Day of Service project

Courtesy Photo Volunteers with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Northeast Michigan pack “cheer up” bags for homebound rural seniors and persons with disabilities.

Several area seniors and persons with disabilities who receive home-delivered meals opened their doors to a nice surprise on Monday, Jan. 20, when they received “cheer up” bags as part of a local service project celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

Fifty-four volunteers joined the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Northeast Michigan to bring some cheer and happiness to those in need across the region. The project was completed as part of the 25th Annual MLK Day of Service in recognition of Martin Luther King’s legacy of service and leadership in his quest for equality.

With the rural nature of Northern Michigan, risks for social isolation and loneliness run high, especially with aging seniors. According to Rick Houchin, RSVP Service Coordinator, the project’s goal was simply to brighten the day of someone who has little to no social contact.

“Social isolation has been shown to increase risks of depression and impact a person’s overall well-being,” he said. “Our home-bound community members don’t receive many visitors or gifts. Often their only interaction is with the volunteers who briefly drop off their home-delivered meals. We’re hoping this small gesture lets them know there are people out here that truly do care.”

With a grant from Michigan Community Service Commission, RSVP developed a project to pack and deliver 330 “cheer up” bags to seniors and persons with disabilities who receive home-delivered meals in Crawford, Iosco, and Oscoda counties. The reusable bags contained useful items such as note pads, ink pens, and slipper socks, as well as fun items like word search puzzles, a cartoon, a deck of playing cards, assorted snacks and hot chocolate, and a small bag of candy.

A highlight of the bags were handmade cards from students in Fairview Elementary School, and Ella White, Hinks and Wilson schools in Alpena. In addition, volunteers signed handmade cards with heartfelt messages on the day of packing.

“This truly was a community effort starting with the students who made cards, to the volunteers who packed the bags, and ending with the volunteers who delivered the bags to the home-delivered meal participants,” Houchin said.

For more information about RSVP and getting involved with the various agencies in need, please call 989-358-4637 or email rsvp@nemcsa.org.