RV’ers Serve Others

July 23, 2009

By Vincent Pierri | Daily Herald (7/3/09)

Art and Sylvia Rogers have returned from five months on the road doing service projects for needy organizations. Traveling in their 40-foot recreational vehicle, the couple are members of Roving Volunteers in Christ’s Service.

Art and Sylvia Rogers are living the good life. antioc_coupleRetired and healthy, they have a little money in the bank and plenty of time on their hands.

But don’t look for them at the bingo hall or on the shuffleboard court.

The 69-year-olds from Antioch, IL want nothing to do with that.

“We’ve done that stuff and it’s boring. It’s just not us,” Art said. “We have more to give.” And giving is what they’ve been doing.

The couple recently returned home after spending five months doing service projects at schools, camps and other locations across the country.

As members of Roving Volunteers in Christ’s Service, (RVICS) the pair traversed the states in their 40-foot recreational vehicle performing maintenance and construction projects for needy nonprofit Christian children’s homes and schools.

“It sounds like a cliché, but we really are living out our dream,” Sylvia said. “We’ve always wanted to travel and see the country, but not just as tourists. We are sightseeing, but helping people along the way.”

The Texas-based RVICS is a nondenominational Christian ministry that connects retired couples traveling in RVs to make repairs and improvements ranging from painting and plumbing to welding and wallpapering at sites across the nation. There are nearly 100 couples working this year.

“There is a dual blessing in this work,” said Paul Swetland, vice president of the organization. He said the volunteers not only give but receive.

Swetland said couples working together tend to become great friends, and lifelong relationships have come from the shared experiences. He said the retirees are finding value serving others in their golden years.

Married for 51 years, the Rogers not only volunteer their time, but also pay for the diesel fuel that powers the home on wheels.

“It’s a 100-gallon tank and we drove about 4,000 miles,” Art said. “It adds up. But our kids helped us out this year.”

Couples agree to spend a minium of one month at each work site. The Rogers worked at sites in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa. They were on the road from January to May.

Their work included roofing, painting, building a deck and repairing a sump pump among other tasks.

RVICS isn’t the only organization tapping the RV community for volunteers.

As the bulge of the baby boom population moves into older age, several organizations are working to connect these folks with volunteer opportunities.

Servants on Wheels Ever Ready, (SOWERS) is a nondenominational group based in Texas. Members work at orphanages, centers for neglected or abused children and recovery homes for adults among other sites.

A ministry of the United Methodist Church, Nomads on a Mission Active in Divine Service, known as “NOMADS,” started in 1988. The Kansas-based group is similar to RVICS, but also sends teams to disaster sites to assist in recovery efforts.

Syliva Rogers said her fellow retirees should consider living for something beyond the superficial.

“We’ve been to the potlucks and concerts. That’s not who we are,” Sylvia said. “We have to have a purpose in life and for us it’s service. We do it for the Lord.”

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