Kindness in Real Life: RSVP program offers personal help

An appreciation for southern cooking, especially grits, is a shared interest between volunteer Jo Carol Wood and Dwayne, the gentleman she shops with each week.

Wood is a volunteer with Thames Valley Council for Community Action’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, having found her exciting volunteer opportunity through a close friend of hers who mentioned volunteering in her community and how rewarding it is for her.

Originally Wood thought she might be interested in volunteering with her husband for the Meals on Wheels program as drivers, but then she decided that a “more personal assignment” like this was perfect for her.

She had worked in the past with several community projects to help others, such as Habitat for Humanity, and, for over 10 years, with the Sponsor Family Program at the Coast Guard Academy.

Dwayne lost his sight 10 years ago, and when his sister was no longer able to continue taking him shopping he was referred to RSVP to match him with a volunteer shopper. Wood was introduced to Dwayne during a meeting set up by the RSVP director and the two found they shared commonalities such as their love of southern cuisine, cooking and watching the Food Network.

“As soon as I met him I knew we were going to be friends,” Wood said.

The two meet monthly for grocery shopping at The Big Y and going to his favorite laundromat in New London, where he grew up.

“This has helped me a lot,” Dwayne said. “It gets me out of the house, and if it wasn’t for Jo, who is a very nice person, I would be sitting around the house.”

RSVP matches individuals in their community with opportunities to either visit or shop with individuals living independently who are either 65 years or older or disabled.

“Dwayne is an amazing person who is very upbeat and enjoys life,” Wood said. “My parents always felt that it was very important to give back, and I am here to help him whatever way I can.”

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program has volunteer opportunities for people ages 55 and up, including visiting and shopping, Meals On Wheels delivery and the veteran coffeehouses. For information, call Georgia James at (860) 425-6608.

Kindness in Real Life is a regular feature in The Times. To submit, email times@theday.com.

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