Catholic Community Services has announced that it will no longer sponsor the Foster Grandparent and Retired Senior Volunteer (RSVP) programs after June 30, when the current grant cycle ends. The move effectively shutters both Senior Corps programs unless a new sponsor steps forward.
About 90 seniors age 60 and older are involved in the Foster Grandparent Program through Catholic Community Services, an affiliate of Catholic Charities Bureau. They serve as tutors, mentors, role models and friends to children and teens with special needs in Northwest Wisconsin and Northeast Minnesota.
In Douglas County, they can be found working with students in the Superior School District and at Family Forum Head Start centers. Foster Grandparents receive a non-taxable stipend of $2.65 per hour and assistance with transportation costs.
RSVP of Douglas County was established in 1973 and provides volunteer opportunities for adults age 55 and over. They are placed in more than 40 sites throughout the community serving public or private nonprofit agencies. These volunteers receive no stipend, but can apply for mileage reimbursement. The Northeastern Wisconsin RSVP program, based out of Rhinelander, is also affected.
For more than four decades, Catholic Community Services has provided sponsorship for the programs as well as administrative oversight.
"Our organization cherishes the many relationships and partnerships that have been built through the Foster Grandparent and Retired Senior Volunteer Programs over the last 45 years," wrote Board President Steve Johnson and Director Clint Thursby in a May 6 letter to the community. "We would like to express deep gratitude and congratulations to the many individuals that have impacted the lives of thousands of people throughout our communities in northern Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota."
But, Thursby said when reached for comment Tuesday, May 21, "the grants are officially ending on June 30 and we will not be requesting an extension."
The move does not preclude seniors from continuing to volunteer, but Catholic Community Services would no longer facilitate the work or provide any of the financial incentives.
According to a release from the nonprofit, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which coordinates Senior Corps grants nationwide, would likely seek to appoint another sponsor. Eligible sponsors include Indian tribes, institutions of higher learning, local governments, nonprofit organizations and government agencies, according to the CNCS website.
It was reported in March that President Donald Trump's proposed budget for 2020 would eliminate CNCS, which also oversees the Americorps program. Current funding is set to run out Sept. 30, according to a May 17 release from Catholic Community Services.
Visit nationalservice.gov to learn more about Senior Corps grants.