Last month, the New York Times Opinionator ran an article on the positive difference workers at national nonprofit ReServe were making in their New York City communities: in libraries, hospitals and schools — as college counselors and business consultants, coaching hospital patients and running reading groups. ReServe, like AmeriCorps — the Clinton-era community service initiative — is a federally funded program that matches professionals over 55 with part-time service at nonprofit and public institutions. Last week, on February 1st, ReServe opened its second affiliate outside of New York here in Baltimore.
Volunteer organizations are, no offense, a dime a dozen. Too often volunteers find that the organization fails to use their time and talents in a meaningful way. It’s a problem that ReServe aims to solve. The volunteers are paid. Not much, but for many, the $10 an hour makes it both affordable and more satisfying. Not only that, the nonprofit partner organization that hires a ReServist pays ReServe $15 an hour for its services. It’s important, because, as executive director Mary Bleiberg points out, “they need to have some skin in the game.”
Bleiberg continues, “The concept of retirement is fading. There is a steady increase of people over 65 staying in the workforce. People are realizing they’re going to be around a lot longer, and there’s a limited number of golf clubs they can swing.”
ReServists are older professionals, often with many years of experience. They expect their services to be valued, and ReServe matches these baby boomers with the people and organizations that need them.
The “matching” aspect is the second key difference in ReServe’s approach to community service, according to Branden McLeod, Baltimore spokesperson for ReServe. The nonprofit partner agency will provide training for applicants in positions that require it. “We’ve received funding from several major partners in the Baltimore area, including the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, which provides financial counseling to low and middle income families, and the College Bound Foundation, which offers Baltimore City high school students help with college access.” ReServists will be provided with the additional skills it takes to help in these areas.
The Baltimore offices of ReServe are at 525 Redwood Street in the University of Maryland School of Social Work, an operating partner with the organization. The website explains its mission and has a link to application sites for both individuals and organizations looking to be partners. Initial training sessions are scheduled for February 15th, March 14th, March 29th and April 10th.
McLeod is ready to start. “We want to begin placing people by the end of the month,” he said.