By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
For more than four decades, Beth Patterson has been helping older adults connect with meaningful and rewarding volunteer experiences as executive director of RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) of Central Oklahoma.
Soon Patterson will be taking on a new role as a volunteer.
At the end of the month, Patterson is stepping down as head of the organization. After 41 years, she is retiring.
“Forty-one years is a long time. I just think it’s time and I’m ready,” Patterson said. “And I’m ready to do what my volunteers have been telling me about.”
Patterson has always enjoyed spending time with older adults. In high school in Minnesota, she worked at a local nursing home. She earned a college degree in gerontology and moved to Oklahoma with her future husband.
RSVP started with a pilot program in New York in 1966 to connect older adults with organizations that desperately need volunteers. The program was an immediate success and branches were opened across the country. In 1973, RSVP of Central Oklahoma was founded.
Patterson was hired as a volunteer coordinator and promoted to associate director within a couple of years. She later became executive director, a position she’s held for 38 years.
“I love what I do. Working with older adults has been my passion since I was a kid and I followed my passion,” she said.
Oklahoma ranks second in the country for mental health challenges among older adults. Connecting retired people with groups can improve their physical and mental health.
“Being around other people is so important for your mental health,” Patterson said.
RSVP works with 55 nonprofit partner agencies, offering a variety of volunteer opportunities in Oklahoma County. Some of those include the Mid-Del Food Pantry, Whiz Kids, Oklahoma State Capitol, City of Midwest City, Harrah History Center, and Harrah Senior Center, which delivers meals to homebound seniors.
“Regardless of what your skills are, there is something for you to do,” Patterson said.
Volunteers through RSVP have the freedom to select when and where they want to help. RSVP provides free accident and liability insurance and offers support. They also work with partner organizations on how to incorporate volunteers into their work team.
COVID reduced the number of volunteer opportunities, especially for older adults. Patterson said that caused many older adults to become more isolated. The organization also had to drop its program that provided older adults with free transportation to medical appointments.
“We just have to encourage them to get back out and whether they want to volunteer two hours a month or 20 hours a month, it doesn’t matter,” Patterson said.
Patterson is passing the torch to Laura McRaniels who will become the new executive director at RSVP. She has worked as an assistant director for five years.
“As we reflect on Beth’s years of service and her unflagging dedication to improving and celebrating the lives of older Oklahomans throughout Central Oklahoma, we are reminded of the incredible impact of her kindness and compassion that spreads so far beyond what we can measure,” McRaniels said in a press release.
An open house and retirement party for Patterson will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 at the RSVP offices at 351 N. Air Depot Boulevard, Suite O, in Midwest City.
For more information about RSVP, visit https://rsvpokc.org/ or call (405) 605-3110.