PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Berkshire County launched its new visitor center adjacent to the Berkshire Athenaeum, located at 16 Bartlett Ave.
This collaborative initiative between RSVP and the city's Office of Cultural Development will be open from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday.
The center will include information materials on countywide activities, a ticketing station that gives reduced rates on theater tickets, a kiosk, and a volunteer on hand to answer questions.
Torrey said Pittsfield RSVP had an information station for tourists in 1971 that closed in 2015 making a center like this part of its 51-year history. Since then many board members and volunteers urged for its return.
The process of opening a visitor center started in March after the board approached RSVP Director Lisa Torrey with the idea.
"They were really adamant that the city of Pittsfield needed something like this to show our pride in our city," Torrey said. "And who better to really man that than people that have lived here their whole lives and know the area."
RSVP member Rosemary Crawford expressed her excitement of the return of the center and will be one of the volunteers manning the center. Crawford was one of the volunteers when it was in the little shed on Park Square.
"I am glad it is coming back. I am hoping that people will come – as many as we used to get. It is interesting to meet people from different parts of the country – and the world," Crawford said. "I am thankful there is a table and chairs for them to sit at and look at the brochures and map."
Prior to opening RSVP had four groups of people come in looking for assistance and although the center was not open yet they were able to assist the groups. The center helped its first official tourist on Wednesday, August 4.
The visitor center is just one of the 34 other active stations that RSVP volunteers can participate in.
Individuals 55 and older who live in Berkshire County are encouraged to volunteer for RSVP and help institutions including the Pittsfield Public Schools, Berkshire Medical Center, Barrington Stage Company, and more.
RSVP offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to impact peoples lives, including some that can be done from the comfort of their own home.
RSVP provides volunteers with the material to create teddy bears that will go around BMC in hospital care cart to brighten the day of children and even adult patients. RSVP also has a sewing machine but often times volunteers choose to use their own.
Volunteers receive a variety of perks which include networking and social contacts, monthly newsletters, mileage reimbursement or van transportation to assignments, annual volunteer recognition luncheon, bi-monthly volunteer birthday party, CIMA Volunteer Insurance, and on occasion free theater tickets.
Prior to the pandemic, RSVP had about 280 active volunteers. During the pandemic that number went down to about 212 but it has been rising. It currently has 250 active volunteers.
In 2021, RSVP volunteers collectively donated 29,358 hours of their time to the community.
Although many places conduct their own background check prior to volunteering, RSVP also conducts background checks and training to all the new volunteers for safety and efficiency.
"That's one of the benefits to a place like Pittsfield Public Schools, because that means that they don't have to take care of that, like our volunteers are coming in there and they're already checked," Torrey said.
RSVP is a national organization funded in part by AmeriCorps Seniors. It is sponsored locally by the city of Pittsfield.
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