Fran Panek of Canastota has been volunteering for RSVP and the American Red Cross for the past year.

By Mary Bartlett

(Canastota, NY – March 2013Volunteer Spotlight) This is one of a series of profiles on volunteerism in Madison County. Volunteers are a valuable asset to the community. The volunteer profiles highlight people in Madison County who willingly give their time and attention to others and share how their own lives have been improved by the role they take as a volunteer.

1. Who do you volunteer for?

I volunteer for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Madison County and the American Red Cross in Oneida and Syracuse.

2. What is your background?

I’ve worked for the past 27 years at a local engineering firm. I began as a division secretary, and later I worked for the president of the company (actually two of the presidents).

3. What makes you want to volunteer, and what drew you to this organization?

I’ve been volunteering for about a year. Since I am no longer working full time, I have more free time to fill. I like being around people, and I definitely have some business skills to offer. I like learning new tasks and wish to stay active in the community.

4. What is your role here? What jobs do you do?

I assist with various office tasks. Each week is different. I’ve helped with general mailings, I’ve entered volunteer hours online and helped recruit new volunteers. Whatever is needed, I am ready to tackle it.

5. What is it you like about this position? Organization? What keeps you involved?

First of all the people at RSVP are appreciative and great to work with. They take the time to explain what is needed and are always willing to answer any questions I may have. I feel very productive with my volunteer work here, and you could say it’s a “win-win” situation for all of us. They are doing good things and I am proud to be a small part of this group. Mostly I’ve learned what a super community this is. Everybody seems to care.

6. What has been your most memorable experience as a volunteer?

My first experience as a volunteer was with the American Red Cross in Oneida. I had the honor to work with Susan Tonra (the director at that time) and she was a one-in-a-million kind of person. She immediately made you feel like part of the family. Susan passed away recently, and the world lost a very special person. Susan truly made a wonderful and lasting impression on me.

7. How does volunteerism fit into your life?

I like to stay busy, be productive and meet others, so volunteering helps balance me. You can only have so many hobbies. I can’t imagine NOT volunteering!

8. What does volunteerism give you that a paid position would not?

I feel more appreciated. When you take the “money equation” out of the picture, then it’s that “inner” drive that surfaces.

9. What else do you love to do?

I like to walk, jog, cross country ski, snowshoe, bicycle, hike, garden, cook, read, refinish furniture, travel and be with family.

10. What would you tell others to encourage them to volunteer?

Volunteering is a good way to meet others in your community while putting your skills to good use at the same time. It’s a whole new world! You can volunteer around your lifestyle. Even if you only have a few hours a month to volunteer, is something out there for you. Volunteers are needed and appreciated!

Volunteer Spotlights is a project of the Volunteer Services Alliance of Madison County. VSA is a professional association for those who administer or oversee volunteers in Madison County. The purpose of the VSA is to promote volunteerism and volunteer development and provide a mechanism for interagency networking. To learn more about the VSA contact Mary Bartlett, director of RSVP of Madison County, at 315.684.3001 ext. 103 or


By martha

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