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Burbank could lose out on volunteer dollars

Burbank may have a tough time this year getting federal funding for its Retired Senior Volunteer Program amid new stipulations that would require the operation to undergo a major overhaul, city officials said.

Burbank’s 40-year-old program boasts more than 700 volunteers, ranging in age from 55 to 99, who last year worked a collective 161,216 hours at schools, museums, hospitals, nursing homes and libraries.

But to comply with the new rules, the program would have to shift the focus of its volunteer efforts and purge existing volunteer stations, which according to city officials would eliminate about 350 volunteers.

“It completely alters the direction that we’ve been going along with for years,” said Deputy of Community Services Gaby Flores, adding that some service areas, like the hospital and airport, don’t fall into the grant’s strategic goals. “That would be counterproductive to what we want to do here in Burbank, which is just involve anyone and everyone that wants to be connected.”


Since 1972, the Corporation for National and Community Service has subsidized a portion of the RSVP operating budget. This year, the corporation has asked applicants to streamline programs to solely serve six areas — disaster services, education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, veterans and military families, and economic opportunity.

City officials plan to go for the grant anyway without making changes to the program, even though they know the chances of success are slim.

“We’re not going to limit our [volunteer] numbers, we’re going to be honest in what we can or can’t do and hope for best,” Flores said. “If they are flexible enough with the funding, great.”

Without the grant, the program would be short $43,000 annually, or about 24% of the program’s $179,977 annual operating budget. The city’s current RSVP grant funding will expire next March.


Councilman David Gordon commended city officials for taking a stand because in tough economic times, it’s hard to turn dollars away.

“Of more than anything, the greatest asset we have is our volunteers,” Gordon said.

Independent Sector — a coalition of nonprofits supporting public service — pegs the value of one volunteer hour in California at $24.18, which would pencil out to roughly $3.9 million in cost savings for Burbank in 2011 when taking into account the cumulative hours worked by all the city’s RSVP volunteers.

If the city doesn’t get the grant, officials would consider consolidating all of Burbank’s volunteer programs, including Connect Volunteer and VolunTEEN.

Glendale doesn’t have an RSVP program, but it had hosted Los Angeles RSVP volunteers at its facilities, said Community Services Supervisor Maggie Kavarian.

Since RSVP was discontinued in Los Angeles, one volunteer no longer gets reimbursed for gas, and helps half as frequently at Glendale’s community centers, Kavarian said.

“It was gas money, it was just killing her,” she said. “She can’t come the way she used to.”

In her absence, Kavarian said, “we have to have more staff on duty to assist with programming.”


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter @atchek.