Group managing Douglas' senior volunteers leaving due to lack of funds

GARDNERVILLE - The organization managing Douglas County's senior volunteers has decided to leave June 30, after the funding increase it sought was left out of the county's 2006-06 budget.

County commissioners Monday approved $18,000 rather than $25,000 requested by senior volunteer officials. On Tuesday, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program board of directors voted to pull its volunteers.

Janice Ayres, the program's executive director, said the program has waited for the stipend to increase for five years, but it hasn't and this year's grant wasn't enough.

"Money is getting harder to come by," Ayres said. "My board voted to put money into the counties that help us stay afloat, not keep throwing money into Douglas County as if these services were our responsibility."

The organization has served Douglas County since 1973, Ayres said.

"We love the people of Douglas County," she said. "But it's come to the point where we just can't do it."

Through this national program, volunteers 55 and older serve in a variety of settings throughout their communities. They provide services using their own talents and interests to address many community needs, according to organization officials.

Program officials expected to spend about $296,000 in Douglas County this year to provide insurance and liability costs for volunteers working at a number of local entities, from the sheriff's office to the home-companion program.

"We regret Douglas County can't see the worth of our volunteer effort with 420 people giving their all," Ayres said. "And that Douglas County does not consider us enough of a priority to support us with another $7,000.

"At $25,000 it's a bargain," she said.

Ayres said it takes about $710 a year to insure and reimburse out-of-pocket expenses for each volunteer.

Undersheriff Bob Rudnick said his department uses 350 volunteers and a significant number of them come from this program.

"Volunteers are very important to us. I hate to see this and I'm hopeful something can be worked out," he said. "They're such a vital part of what we do and the services we provide. I can't speak highly enough about them."

Warren Bottino, senior services supervisor at the Douglas County Senior Center, said he doesn't expect to lose any of his 60 volunteers, who perform a number of tasks, everything from serving in the cafeteria to working in the gift shop.

"Most of the people working for us became associated by participating here and when they become Douglas County volunteers, they will be covered under Douglas County's program," he said.

Legislation that could curb grant funding, like the Tobacco Fund, is also affecting the program's ability to serve. Efforts will be redirected to Nevada's rural counties that need more help, Ayres said.

"We have people in towns like Battle Mountain and Goldfield," she said. "Those counties do their level best to come up with funding for us. They see helping their senior population as an important issue."

- Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at or 782-5121.

What is RSVP

Nevada's Retired and Senior Volunteer Program is part of the Corporation for National Service, a federal agency. Established in 1971, the program has grown to include 450,000 volunteers nationwide who provided 70 million hours of service last year.


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