Saying thanks

RSVP honors volunteers, names volunteers of the year

BIG RAPIDS — Saying “thank you” is important to acknowledge the service and assistance of others, especially when their efforts are the backbone of a program.

Retired Senior Volunteer Program administrators showed their appreciation for the hours and energy given by hundreds of people throughout the program’s three-county area on Thursday with a luncheon program and the annual Volunteer of the Year awards — and a special award for Glen Cooper, who still volunteers several times a week at age 101.

RSVP Director Sandy Dalrymple presented Cooper with a special certificate, two commemorative pins and a Meijer gift card to thank him for volunteering for the past 17 years. Calling him up to the front of the room, he was given a chair while Dalrymple did a “this is your life” style presentation.

Cooper, of Lake County, has served on the Hollister Senior Center board of directors, where he’s the head of the euchre club, has worked the front desk and done minor repairs; served on the Baldwin Community Thrift Center board of directors; volunteered at food distributions with Five Cap; and taught chair-caning classes in addition to his work with RSVP. 

“What happened today really was a surprise, I tell you that,” said a smiling Cooper. “It’s been a pleasure to volunteer. I’d volunteered a long time before I got into RSVP. I like to help people out.”

The desire to help others also drives the three winners of the 2016 Volunteer of the Year awards.

Carl and Kathy Merchant, of Lake County, and Alice Lewis, of Mecosta County, were honored at the luncheon Thursday. All three were taken by surprise at the award.

Lewis grudgingly took a spot in the limelight to accept her certificate before joining the other volunteers who were serving lunch. She also has worked at the bake sale which helps fund the recognition and helps out “where she can.”

“I volunteer to help people,” she said. “My friend Bess Andrews was who got me started with it.”

The Merchants also were taken off guard by the honor.

“It’s just awesome,” said Carl of the award. “The best part of retirement is volunteering.”

He and his wife volunteer at Bread of Life Food Pantry and St. Ann’s Catholic Church. Carl also gives his time to the Lake County Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy Program. They began attending the RSVP Volunteer Recognition luncheons about four years ago, but never dreamt they’d be among the honorees.

“It never occurred to us we would be honored,” Kathy said. “We just went out and did our job.”

The Merchants both praised RSVP, and Carl noted it was nice to be thanked for their efforts.

“RSVP is a great program to be able to recognize the service people do, and they do a good job at that,” he said. 

As guests ate, Peter Jordan and His Fun-Loving Crowd provided live music, stopping every few songs for Dalrymple to draw numbers in a gift basket giveaway. While about 20 lucky individuals won prizes, everyone in attendance was presented with a potted zinnia as they left to thank them for their work over the past year.

RSVP serves Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties.