Volunteer Spotlight: Carole Brown
Meet the Advisory Council member whose leadership has been integral to the success of our program for over 20 years. Part of a new series highlighting the stories of RSVP volunteers.
RSVP Director's Foreword: One of the great privileges I enjoy as RSVP Director is the opportunity to get to know our volunteers and capture their remarkable stories of service. On a regular basis, I'll be bringing you profiles of the dedicated older adults who exemplify the values that RSVP and national service are built on.
Volunteer: Carole Brown
Volunteer Station: RSVP Advisory Council RSVP Member Since: 1999
Telling Carole Brown's story as an RSVP member would, quite frankly, take far more than a single blog post. Her service to our program extends beyond her leadership of the RSVP Advisory Council, although this service cannot be understated - between 2015 and 2018, she and fellow long-time volunteer Topper O'Connell effectively were the Advisory Council. It would not be an exaggeration to say that if Carole had not stepped up at a crucial moment in our program's history, RSVP of Spokane County might not be here today!
Carole holds the unique distinction of being not only an RSVP volunteer, but a former staff member. And not just any staff member - for a time between 2003 to 2004, Carole ran the program as the interim RSVP Director. The responsibility was not one she had anticipated. In 2003, former RSVP Director Susan Russell fell ill and was forced to leave her position rather suddenly. At the time, Carole had been serving on the YMCA of the Inland Northwest's own Board of Directors. The other board members asked her if she knew enough to step in and lead RSVP. And so she did.
It was Susan Russell who first recruited Carole to join RSVP. Carole affectionately remembers Susan as "a pusher." Carole worked for many years at Washington Water Power (WWP), retiring the same year that WWP became Avista. Carole was the vice-president of the Avista retiree organization when Susan came to a retiree luncheon and asked if she'd be interested in joining RSVP. Carole fondly recalled accompanying Susan to conventions around the country.
All of a sudden, I was home and didn't have much to do . . . . All my friends were working, and I thought, "I gotta find something to do."
Carole's shrewd, no-nonsense leadership has benefited more organizations than ours. She served on the board at Corbin Senior Activity Center for nearly a decade, and served not only as the board president but Executive Director of the now-defunct senior wellness nonprofit PED-Prevention, Education & Development. In addition, she volunteered for over 13 years at the Ronald McDonald House and performed important work for the Spokane County Superior Court Guardianship Monitoring program, which is vital to ensuring the well-being of incapacitated individuals in court-supervised guardianships.
Carole had many memorable moments to share with me when we talked about her experience as an RSVP Advisory Council and YMCA Board of Directors member. She recalled being part of the selection process for the RSVP Director who followed her, Clint Kruiswyck, saying, "Everyone wanted to know who we were impressed with, but we couldn't tell them." My favorite story was her account of the time she won the YMCA's "Volunteer of the Year" Award.
The biggest surprise I've had was one night when we were going to the YMCA dinner. I went out there and met Teri and there were a couple people from the YMCA board who were standing in the hall when I came in. All of a sudden I saw my son standing nearby and I said, "What's he doing here?" Turns out, it was a surprise to honor me!
I asked Carole, as I ask all our volunteers, "What would you say to someone else to convince them to start volunteering?" She laughed and replied, "I've convinced a lot of people!" She went on to discuss how so many people sit at home and don't do anything, and consequently get lonely. "Volunteering," she said, "is a great thing to do because you're helping people and making new friends. You're meeting people from different circles of life."
In all my years of volunteering, all those people I've met came from different circles that I never grew up in.
Carole has started to recognize recently the importance of taking time for herself and enjoying retirement. She told me that a friend gave her a little card to keep on her that she's supposed to pull out whenever someone asks her to do something. The card explains that she's "done enough" and isn't supposed to volunteer anymore. "It's a real cute saying," Carole said. But the card doesn't seem to have stopped her from continuing to show up to support the people and organizations that have come to rely on her. RSVP certainly wouldn't be the same without her.