Doing good for others

Debbie Moloney volunteers at Escorted Transporation Service Northwest, a program that gives seniors rides.

If you are someone who wants to put your time and talent to good use — or learn new skills as you reap personal benefits, volunteerism is one step away from achieving those goals.

A good place to start is the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Northern Cook and Northern DuPage Counties. The Arlington Heights based networking program matches people 55 and older with local organizations that work to better the community.

"Studies show volunteering is good for your health, and report that volunteers have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease," says Linda McLaughlin, RSVP program manager. RSVP volunteers provide disaster services to help communities prepare, respond and recover; educational support for children and tutoring of adults with limited English skills; and services to improve senior's lives.

Volunteering through RSVP is simple and requires just a few minutes of your time on the group's website:

"The website lists over 400 current volunteer opportunities to choose from," says McLaughlin. "Directly from our website an email can be sent to RSVP with the opportunities that are of interest to every volunteer and then a program coordinator will contact the volunteer for additional follow up. "

From there you can tell RSVP what you would like to do, how far you're willing to travel and just what your areas of interest are.

RSVP has been in Illinois since1972. It is one of more than 740 locally sponsored RSVP projects in the nation. Annually 950 to 1,000 volunteers work with more than 130 nonprofit organizations throughout the 45 cities and towns in Northern Cook and Northern DuPage Counties, says McLaughlin.

RSVP is sponsored by HandsOn Suburban Chicago, formerly The Volunteer Center of NW Suburban Chicago.

For the children

SuperSibs! of Palatine is one organization that has put RSVP volunteers to good use.

SuperSibs! was established in 2003 after its founder, Melanie Goldish, battled through pediatric cancer with one of her sons and realized her other "healthy" son found the experience to be an emotional rollercoaster as well, explains Beth Gauthier, program/volunteer coordinator with SuperSibs!

Children are referred to the organization by family members, friends, counselors or medical personnel. SuperSibs! then reaches out by sending direct mail comfort and care packages to the siblings, ages 4 to 18, of those children battling cancer. It also sends out bereavement packages to children who have lost a sibling to the disease.

Items in the comfort and care package include SuperSibs! Personalized Courage Trophies, books and journals, the SibBuzz Newsletters, Sib2Sib letters, and Sweet Dreams Pillowcases and more.

"There was existing support for patients and parents, but nothing for siblings of pediatric patients," notes Gauthier. "SuperSibs! was created to support and honor these survivor siblings whose journey often goes unrecognized to help them face the future with strength, courage and hope."

In addition, the SuperSibs! website — — allows for 24/7 access by siblings, parents and professionals. It provides updated, downloadable activities, information, resources, inspiration and education.

Volunteers are needed to do everything from helping out in the office and assisting with events and fundraisers to assembling the direct mail and comfort packages. Or they can work remotely helping to create quilts or making Smile Cards sent to the children throughout the year to let them know someone is thinking of them.

"Volunteers are the lifeblood of SuperSibs!," says Gauthier. "With just one office and seven employees, we would never be able to serve the 27,000 siblings from across the U.S. and Canada that are currently a part of our program."

Appealing work

Nancy Tirado, 59 of Palatine, is a retired teacher who has been volunteering with SuperSibs! for a few months doing data entry once a week.