Giving back: Barre man serves to serve othersADAM CAIRA / STAFF PHOTO
Guy Isabelle, director of RSVP, poses for a portrait on Friday at Heaton Woods in Berlin, where the program’s office is located.
BARRE — He gives back in tribute to those who gave to him.
Barre native J. Guy Isabelle wears many hats. He is the director of the RSVP program that helps match Vermonters 55 years and older to organizations looking for volunteers. Isabelle is also the director of the Vermont Senior Companion Program, where those 55 and over are paired with the homebound elderly in the hope of enabling them to continue living at home by helping with groceries, giving rides to doctor appointments and just being there to play cribbage.
Apart from his work with the older generations of Vermonters, Isabelle is the freshman boys basketball coach at Spaulding High School and has coached at numerous age levels.
Isabelle is on the CVTV public access board and the SerVermont board that oversees the federal grants that come in for agencies such as AmeriCorps, is the chairman of the board for Lincoln House, an assisted living home in Barre, and a volunteer with Barre Heritage Days. He has served on the Washington County Diversion Board, the Spaulding school board for nine years and the Barre Town school board for six.
Isabelle said the reason he is so involved in his community is the strong work ethic he developed coming from a working poor family and a drive to do better from those who have mentored him along the way. He is a self-proclaimed basketball fanatic, and Isabelle said the coaches and teachers he had in school really left an impression on him.
“I’ve never forgotten that. I’ve always wanted to give back in some way,” he said.
Even though Isabelle gives so much of himself, it is not to feed his ego.
“I don’t hold myself up higher than anyone else,” he said, adding there are plenty of other people in Barre who volunteer and do good work.
For Isabelle, volunteer work is the same as paid work. He said that while you collect income from paid work, volunteer work has its own kind of reward, be it the good feeling of helping others or learning a new skill.
“Whatever the motivation, to me it doesn’t matter,” Isabelle said.
You also need to support volunteers like employees and let them know they are doing a good job, he said, so they know they are valued and want to continue doing a good job. Another way volunteerism is similar to a paid job is commitment.
“If you’re a volunteer, you need to be clear about what your commitment is, and you need to honor that commitment,” Isabelle said.
He cited earlier experiences as a volunteer coach to make the point. He said that if he wasn’t fully committed, it would be like sometimes deciding not to show up to run practice, simply because he didn’t feel like it.
He asked, “What kind of message does that send (to the players)?”
Working with both the elderly and the young is also partly by design for Isabelle.
“Part of what keeps us young is to have a diversity of involvement with different populations,” he said.
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