Local groups combat senior hunger in the East Valley - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Local groups combat senior hunger in the East Valley

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Posted: Sunday, July 6, 2014 1:30 pm

Local agencies are teaming up to banish hunger among seniors in the East Valley.

Assistance for Independent Living (AIL) and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) are working together through East Valley Adult Resources to provide elderly locals in need with help signing up for food programs in a project called the Nutritional Assistance Navigation Program (NANP).

RSVP recruits volunteers, 55 and older, on a regular basis to volunteer with organizations and programs throughout Pinal, Gila and eastern Maricopa counties. NANP is the newest of these programs it will be helping to staff with volunteers.

“Currently, we’ve got about 350 volunteers in RSVP and we have 80 volunteer stations,” said Gene van den Bosch, director of East Valley RSVP, which is one of five RSVP groups in Arizona. “A volunteer station is simply a nonprofit or an agency … and that volunteer station utilizes the services of the volunteers.”

Volunteers in the program will spend four to eight hours per week at one of three locations — Mesa Senior Center, Red Mountain Active Adult Center and Apache Junction Active Adult Center — helping seniors to sign up for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as SNAP.

“We work with the frail and elderly that are homebound,” said Margo Pair, director of AIL. “We want to give everyone an opportunity to feel welcomed and have a safe, private place and someone to help assist them with navigating through the system to apply.”

The program is being funded through a grant from the National Council on Aging. Ten volunteers are needed to maintain an active quarterly roster of four volunteers who can work at the volunteer stations on days when appointments are scheduled.

“It is a pilot program and if it seems to go well, we hope to expand it after the first year,” said Pair. “It could expand to Tempe, Gilbert and Chandler. We’re hoping to expand it to meet what the need is.”

The first training took place on June 26, but another is scheduled for July 9. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Thomas Hulen, volunteer recruiter for East Valley RSVP, at (480) 775-1466, ext. 116.

“We really want to invite those that enjoy connecting with others, are able to talk about sensitive topics, perhaps walk someone through some government bureaucracy,” Pair said.

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