Thies logs more than 10,000 hours of volunteering for RSVP
By CAROL PRZYBYLSKI
Special to The Gazette
Ron Thies may not fit the image of a Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteer for many people due to his “disability.” Three years before his retirement as a teacher/principal from St. Paul Lutheran School, he became ill with a virus that left him completely paralyzed for six months. After a lot of therapy and hard work, he eventually regained use of some of his body. He needed a wheelchair his first year back at work and then leg braces the last two years. Thies felt that his challenges became another lesson to teach his students after a lifetime in education.
When he retired in 2005, it only took Thies a short time to realize that he needed something else in his life, and he therefore became a RSVP volunteer. Since then he has given our community 10,468 hours of service and is still going strong.
Thies told me he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as a volunteer, so he asked to visit sites that appealed to him to see if they met his needs as well as him meeting their needs. He continues to recommend this approach to anyone interested in RSVP because we have more than 60 sites to choose from.
His first placement was with Community Care of Central Wisconsin (CCCW) working with data entry, and he is still committed to them after 11 years. He is also teaching math as a RSVP volunteer at his former elementary school this summer. And he does a monthly newsletter for Community Friends and Partners, a group that works with adults with cognitive and physical special needs.
In the past, he has volunteered at Ben Franklin Junior High School, the American Red Cross, St. Michael’s Hospital and Justiceworks as well as being a member of the RSVP council.
When asked why he would encourage anyone over the age of 55 to become a RSVP volunteer, Thies said, “It’s a great help to the community and to people you may never meet.”
He encouraged others to do what he did take a look at opportunities available and pick out the one you want. He said he also loves the flexibility and variable hours available especially if you have other hobbies or interests.
Thies said he loves doing “Matchitecture,” using kits to build with matches that he cut, sanded and glued to build replicas of famous things like the Eiffel Tower. His creations of 12 of the kits have become so large most are on display outside of his home. They can be viewed at St. Paul Lutheran School and were previously at the Lincoln Center. Thies also loves doing puzzles and reading.
Thies may not fit everyone’s image of a RSVP volunteer, but he does fit the image RSVP has of our volunteers. That is one of the special aspects of volunteering for RSVP – anyone 55 or older can find an opportunity to serve someplace, somehow and sometime in our county. Give us a call at 715-346-1401 and explore the options like Thies recommends.
Editor’s note: Carol Przybylski is a RSVP advisory board member.