Once a month, Dean Larrick takes time from his busy schedule and drives to Rocheport to deliver food to low-income seniors with no means of transportation.
The food, mostly canned goods, frozen food and a few fresh vegetables, all comes from the Central Missouri Food Bank Pantry, and Larrick ensures it gets to the right people.
Larrick has volunteered with the Boone County Council on Aging since 1991. Today, along with hundreds of others, he will celebrate the agency’s 30th year of helping seniors.
“It gives you a great deal of satisfaction to help people,” Larrick said. “Now that I’m retired, I’ve got the time to do it.”
Since 1973, the Boone County Council on Aging has grown from a small group of 11 volunteers to a nonprofit organization of more than 300 that assists seniors and provides volunteer opportunities for those over age 55. That growth coincides with a rise in the number of Boone County seniors 65 and older, a population that grew 20.4 percent over the past decade.
The council, with a paid staff of seven, operates two main programs: SeniorConnect and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP.
With 112 volunteers of all ages and an annual budget of about $130,000, SeniorConnect offers services to low-income seniors, helping with yard work, giving rides to the store or to doctor appointments, repairing homes and making friendly visits.
The agency also serves as an important source of information, providing legal assistance, support groups and advice on how to tap into other community resources. Last year, the Council on Aging served more than 2,000 seniors.
“We try to make sure seniors remain in their own home for as long as possible,” Executive Director Lois Shelton said.
Since Larrick began volunteering for the council, he has seen it become more well-known and active.
“As people get older, this is really valuable,” Larrick said. “The world can seem quite confusing, and if you have got an organization that will help guide you to the right support system, it is of immeasurable help to the senior.”
The Council on Aging began RSVP in 1988, a program that connects seniors with various volunteer opportunities. RSVP now has a budget of about $70,000 per year. It has more than 250 volunteers who in 2002 provided more than 60,600 hours of service to hospitals, schools and organizations.
Larrick was drawn to RSVP in 1991 because it allows seniors to choose how they volunteer based on their interests, skills and available time. Larrick’s work has ranged from handing out fliers at football games to helping the disabled with Christmas shopping. He has also read to visually impaired seniors, helped seniors prepare for job interviews and delivered Christmas baskets.
“Everyone should volunteer for the community,” Larrick said. “It enriches your life.”