Douglas County officials say they won't abandon senior volunteers

Douglas County will not abandon its senior volunteers, said Kelly Kite, Douglas County Commission chairman.

He said a reorganization effort should be in place to support the county's volunteers by June 30, when the Retired Senior Volunteer Program pulls out of Douglas County.

"If they pull out completely, we'll be funding volunteers and working out a system to keep Lifeline and other volunteer efforts going," Kite said.

County Manager Dan Holler supported that statement, saying the county would pick up worker's compensation insurance for volunteers in Douglas County.

"The RSVP decision doesn't mean people won't be able to continue their volunteer work in Douglas County," he said. "We'll be glad to work with these people."

The issue came to a head at recent county budget meetings after commissioners approved $18,000 for the volunteer program in Douglas County rather than the $25,000 requested by RSVP officials.

Commissioner Jim Baushke said he was a little puzzled by the complete pullout and he hopes to have more discussions with RSVP officials.

"I think, for $18,000 RSVP could provided the county with something," he said. "We donated a total of $110,000 in grants this year. That's not bad, for services that aren't used by everyone in the county."

Through the national RSVP program, volunteers 55 and older serve in a variety of settings throughout their communities.

The program supports more than 400 volunteers in Douglas County, the bulk at the Sheriff's Department, Senior Center and Douglas County Historical Society.

About 120 volunteers serve in various other capacities, including the Douglas County Library, Family Support Council and FISH Thrift.

Janice Ayres, executive director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, said the money wasn't enough, considering the efforts and estimated $296,000 the organization expected to spend in Douglas County this year.

Decreases in tobacco money grants and other legislative cutbacks could further reduce the program's funding, she 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," Ayres said.

County Manager Dan Holler said he understood the issues, but the money was not there.

"We could fund the $18,000, but increasing that figure to $25,000 would mean taking it out of someone else's budget or increasing some revenue source," he said. "Asking anyone to reduce their budget by $7,000 is a significant hit."

County commissioner Doug Johnson said he doesn't think the county will lose many volunteers.

"People volunteer for a reason. They want to," he said. "I don't think we'll lose volunteers because of insurance coverage."

Grace Bower, vice president of the Douglas County Historical Society, said she doesn't expect the pullout to affect her program. The organization uses about 100 volunteers at the Carson Valley and Genoa museums and she expects them to remain.

"Most of our volunteers have Medicare and supplementary insurance, so this really isn't an issue for us," she said.

Holler said county funding for this program started in the mid-1990s with a $4,000 grant. Funding has been held at around $15,000 over the past four to five years, but it was starting to increase.

"In my perspective, the board (of Douglas County Commissioners) made the right decision," Holler said.

n Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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