Manastash Metric

A cyclist in the annual Manastash Metric rides along the Yakima River on state Route 10 west of Ellensburg, in 2016. The event was one of the primary fundraisers for RSVP.

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The future of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program is uncertain, with the possibility of closing down permanently in the fall. The program has been a part of the Ellensburg community for 47 years, providing volunteer workers to organizations in need.

The program needs a sponsor in order to exist, one that can apply for a federal grant which will fund the RSVP. For the last 25 years, that sponsor has been Central Washington University. To remain as a sponsor, CWU has needed to reapply for the grant every three years, and has recently decided not to renew it anymore.

RSVP Director Carol Findley said the decision to not renew the grant was a mutual one between CWU and RSVP.

“It was not at all a bad situation,” Findley said. “It was a really great, thoughtful and well thought out decision.”

To keep the program active, another nonprofit will have to apply for the federal grant through Americorps Seniors, when it becomes available at the end of the summer. Findley said any local nonprofit can apply for the grant, and they are currently reaching out to them to see if anyone is interested.

“We are so hoping that one of the other nonprofits will pick it up,” Findley said. “The grant program only comes every three years, so it will be very important this late summer to fall, when that award comes out, that someone who’s really interested really looks into it and sees that it would be a good fit for their program. There are so many awesome nonprofits in our county that work with volunteers. … I’m sure it would be a good fit for at least a handful of them if they want to take it on.”

The program has worked to provide senior volunteers, older than 55, to any nonprofit who needs them. RSVP would train and interview the volunteers so they had the knowledge needed to make an impact wherever they worked.

Findley said many organizations appreciated the help from older citizens because they would usually have a strong work ethic and reliability. They would take the position seriously because they cared deeply about the community.

“If it wasn’t for the volunteers in our county, and I mean all ages, everything from soccer coaches to people working at the hospital, everybody that volunteers in our community really makes this such a good place to live,” Findley said. “There’s hundreds and hundreds of volunteers in Kittitas County, keeping things running and doing things for others and making sure people can live independently in their homes and live longer in their homes. It’s such a blessing to live here because of all the volunteers.”

The RSVP offices closed March 31 when the grant expired. The website and the phones have been shut down because they can’t help anymore without the funding. Findley said they were lucky to work with CWU for as long as they did because many universities don’t sponsor a local RSVP, let alone for 25 years.

“I’m just hopeful it’s going to be picked up and keep going,” Findley said.

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