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Volunteer programs offered at Blair Senior Services

Adults 55 and older have the chance to showcase their talents and skills to help serve the community through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program offered by Blair Senior Services.
According to program director Suzy Loy, the RSVP Program is currently seeking volunteers for the Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement, the Neighborhood Watch Program, and the Seniors for Students Literacy Program, just to name a few.
Under the direction of Cheryl Nolan, EASI was initiated two years ago for the volunteer who enjoys the outdoors and who is environmentally conscious. Training and supplies are provided by Blair Senior Services at no cost.
Currently, 25 volunteers monitor the streams of Blair and Cambria counties once a month. Also, stream-life assessments are performed twice a year. Other projects include tree planting and inter-generational projects with schools and scouting groups.
New to EASI is a partnership with the Allegheny Portage National Historic Site where volunteers concentrate on planting flowers and trail maintenance.
Neighborhood Watch is a growing program with Blair Senior Services under the direction of Debbie Pierce. The program was initiated with money from a Homeland Security Grant.
Pierce said the purpose of the grant is to establish neighborhood watch groups throughout the county, identify volunteers to assist with emergency management and to provide educational opportunities to the people of the county.
In a Neighborhood Watch, volunteers and members of the neighborhood meet at a designated place once a month to talk about concerns they are having with the neighborhood. Guest speakers talk about issues like how to stay secure during the summer months with the windows of the house open, self defense and basic safety awareness. Members of law enforcement are also present at the meetings to provide information to the members of the community.
So far 19 Neighborhood Watches have been established throughout Altoona, Williamsburg, Claysburg and Greenwood, and over 160 volunteers are involved in the program.
A Neighborhood Watch is established in a neighborhood when a citizen has a concern or interest in the program and approaches Blair Senior Services with the idea. Pierce is hoping that Neighborhood Watches are soon established in the Tyrone and Bellwood areas.
The role of the volunteers in the Neighborhood Watch Program is simple. Volunteers are asked to become more aware of their neighborhood and to report any suspicious behavior. There is an anonymous reporting system for those who might not want to report something otherwise. The purpose is through this sense of awareness, the Neighborhood Watch Program should bring a sense of community to the neighborhood.
Another program offered is the Seniors for Students Literacy Program where volunteers travel to elementary schools and daycares to help students with reading skills.
“All of these programs that are inter-generational really help younger kids learn respect for older adults,” said Loy. “Some of them don’t have older adults or grandparents in their lives.”
Loy stressed the point that Blair Senior Services has the opportunity to send volunteers virtually anywhere they want to go. For example, if a person has an extensive background in hospital care, then that person can volunteer at a hospital. If a person has an interest in education, then that person can volunteer at a school.
There are volunteering opportunities at food banks, hospice care, hospitals, schools, and many more organizations throughout the community.