PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The Berkshire County Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) has 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. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The center will include information materials on countywide activities, a box office that offers discounted rates on theater tickets, a kiosk and an on-site volunteer to answer questions.
Torrey said Pittsfield RSVP had a tourist information station in 1971 that closed in 2015, making a center like this part of its 51-year history. Since then, many board members and volunteers have called for his return.
The process of opening a welcome center began 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 handle that than people who have lived here all their lives and know the area.”
RSVP member Rosemary Crawford expressed her excitement for the center’s return and will be one of the volunteers tending the center. Crawford was one of the volunteers when he was in the small shed in Park Square.
“I’m glad he’s coming back. I hope people come – as much as before. It’s interesting to meet people from different parts of the country – and the world,” Crawford said. “I am grateful there is a table and chairs for them to sit and look at the brochures and the map.”
Before RSVP opened, four groups of people came for help and although the center had not yet opened, they were able to help the groups. The center helped its first official tourist on Wednesday August 4th.
The Welcome Center is just one of 34 other active stations that RSVP volunteers can attend.
People 55 and older who live in Berkshire County are encouraged to RSVP and help out institutions such as Pittsfield Public Schools, Berkshire Medical Center, Barrington Stage Company, and more.
RSVP offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to impact people’s lives, including some that can be done from the comfort of home.
RSVP provides volunteers with the materials to create teddy bears that will ride around BMC in a hospital care cart to brighten the day for children and even adult patients. RSVP also has a sewing machine, but volunteers often choose to use their own.
Volunteers receive a variety of benefits which include networking and social contacts, monthly newsletters, mileage reimbursement or van transportation to missions, annual volunteer appreciation luncheon, birthday party fortnightly volunteer insurance, CIMA volunteer insurance and, occasionally, free theater tickets.
Prior to the pandemic, RSVP had approximately 280 active volunteers. During the pandemic, that number dropped to around 212, but it has been rising. It currently has 250 active volunteers.
In 2021, RSVP volunteers collectively gave 29,358 hours of their time to the community.
Although many places conduct their own background checks before volunteering, RSVP also conducts background checks and training of all new volunteers for safety and effectiveness.
“That’s one of the good things about a place like Pittsfield Public Schools because it means they don’t have to deal with it, like our volunteers come over there and they’re already controlled,” Torrey said.
RSVP is a national organization funded in part by AmeriCorps Seniors. It is locally sponsored by the City of Pittsfield.
Key words: cultural development, RSVP,