Nationally, RSVP is an outgrowth of efforts by private groups, gerontologists, and government agencies over the past decades to address the needs of retired persons in America. The White House Conference on Aging in 1961 called attention to the continuing need of older people for useful activity. One of the outcomes of the Conference was the passage of the Older Americans Act of 1965, which was amended in 1969, creating RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program).
RSVP launched eleven projects in the summer of 1971 and expanded nationally to a total of 590 RSVP projects by June 30, 1973. In 1974, WestArk RSVP began operations under the leadership of Vivian Yoes. Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center became the sponsoring agency for WestArk RSVP in 1976. The RSVP program was housed in donated space at the Beckman Center. WestArk RSVP was well received by the community and membership grew to 900 volunteers.
In 1990, construction of the RSVP Center was completed with funds from a Community Development Block Grant from the City of Fort Smith and donations from the community and the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center. Construction occurred inside the shell of what had been known as the Newton House. The building was occupied in September of 1990.
In 1993, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) came into being when the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 was signed. This new Act lowered the age for participation in RSVP from 60 to 55, eliminated a requirement that volunteers no longer be in the work force and gave CNCS oversight responsibility for the RSVP programs.
Vivian Yoes retired in 1996 ending an amazing 23 year career and the position of WestArk RSVP Program Director was filled by Julia Bryant. Julia Bryant served until her death in 2000. Susan Reehl became the third Program Director of WestArk RSVP on June 1, 2000.
In 2001, a computer lab was housed in the RSVP Center for the use of RSVP members. The computers were acquired through a grant from IBM. Barbara Holcombe, an RSVP member was the author of the grant and the lab was named in her honor - Barbara's Computer Lab. In 2006, the RSVP Center was renovated and modernized using a Community Development Block Grant.
In the summer of 2010 WestArk RSVP added Benton, Carroll and Madison counties to its' existing program which serves volunteers and community organizations in Sebastian and Crawford counties. This expansion increased funding and membership by nearly 40%. WestArk RSVP was awarded the additional three counties in a competitive grant process. In March 2015, WestArk added Boone, Marion, and Washington Counties to its’ program. The combined eight counties resulted in the largest RSVP program in Arkansas.
EAGER TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE DO? GIVE US A CALL AT 479-783-4155 IN FORT SMITH, OR 479-636-0578 IN ROGERS. WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU!