OGDEN — Joe Vigil recently reunited an 82-year-old man with his two daughters after 40 years of separation.

Over the course of this school year, Beverly Searle helped a fourth-grader go from reading 43 to 98 words per minute.

Bob Cannon regularly enjoys surprising children by explaining that antique cars in the Union Station museum were built without trunks or seat belts.

All three of these folks are volunteers with senior programs sponsored by Weber Human Services.

This week is National Senior Corps Week and those behind the local programs are using the observance to encourage others over the age of 55 to join in as volunteers.

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Weber County Senior Companion Program volunteer

Weber County Senior Companion Program volunteer Joe Vigil (left) helps Blake Winn use the bus system.

Joe Vigil

Vigil, 76, of Ogden, said he was able to help a man he visits as part of the Senior Companion program reunite with his daughters by explaining to his daughters that he was in the late stages of his life.

“They have been calling him every Sunday for over a year,” Vigil said of the man’s daughters. He also helps the man with his genealogy.

Vigil said he also helps two younger men.

Frequently, Vigil goes to movies with those he helps. He also plays games with them, engages in letter-writing sessions and teaches them how to use public transportation.

“They don’t have many friends and don’t assimilate much,” Vigil said.

Vigil loves volunteering. He said he gets to listen to the life stories of those he helps and he learns much by listening.

“It helps you physically and mentally,” he said. “I would recommend volunteering to anyone.”

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Volunteer for the Weber County Foster Grandparent Program

This photo shows Beverly Searle, a volunteer with the Weber County Foster Grandparent program, as she tutors student Maddy Jouvin.


Beverly Searle

Searle, 71, said her service in the Foster Grandparent program has awakened her.

“It’s been great to be able to be alive again,” Searle said. “I am going every day until 6 or 6:30 at night.”

A heart transplant patient who was forced to retire 14 years ago, Searle said she couldn’t do much before she started volunteering nine years ago.

“I was very sick a lot,” Searle said. “I couldn’t hardly do anything. I could barely get out the door.”

Now, the Bountiful resident said she feels “wonderful” as she does her volunteer work. She helps 36 third- and fourth-grade students at Woods Cross Elementary School, generally in groups that meet for 15 minutes and concentrate on reading.

“They get used to reading out loud in front of people and with other people,” Searle said. “It helps them grow.”

She also tutors 14 kindergarteners and first-graders after school at Adelaide Elementary School in Bountiful.

After her school and after-school programs, she frequently works out at the South Davis Recreation Center or goes grocery shopping in Centerville and runs into her students and their families.

The students frequently say “Hello Grandma.”

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BZ 043018 RSVP Volunteer Bob Cannon 04-3

Bob Cannon poses for a photo in the main lobby of Union Station in Ogden on Monday, April 30, 2018. Cannon, like many of the people at the station, volunteers through Weber County's Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. The RSVP program is a national initiative to pair people over 55 years old with local volunteer opportunities.

Bob Cannon

Cannon has volunteered with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program for 17 years, all at the Union Station in Ogden.

“I have only been retired for five years,” the 70-year-old Layton resident said. Before retiring, he said he adjusted his work schedule to fit in volunteering.

Cannon enjoys watching visitors’ surprise at realizing how big trains are when they see them up close.

“When you are in your car, they don’t seem that big. They stand 18-feet tall,” Cannon said.

Most often, he works at the ticket counter, but he also may be found in the car or railroad museum.

“You get to meet all different kinds of people from all over the country and all over the world,” Cannon said, noting those he’s met from Europe and Asia.

A member of the Model Railroad Club, Cannon has been associated with Union Station for 27 years.

“I have always been interested in railroads,” he said. “I grew up a block from the railroad tracks in Council Bluffs, Iowa. I saw trains every day.”

Cannon often is called on to spout off May 10, 1869, the date the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Point

“We see a lot of kids,” Cannon said. “They become train lovers at an early age.” 

He also enjoys cars. Some at the Union Station car museum date back to 1901.

How to volunteer 

Volunteers at both the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs receive stipends of $2.65 per hour for their service if their income is less than $2,000 per month, said Charity Rowberry, director of both the Foster Grandparent and RSVP programs.

Volunteers from all three programs may receive mileage reimbursement as they travel to and from their volunteer positions or for travel during their volunteer sessions.

The stipends and mileage reimbursements are designed to defray the cost of volunteering, Rowberrry said.

“The whole idea is to encourage low- to moderate-income seniors to participate in the community,” said Senior Companion Program Director Karyl Chase.

All three programs are covered by supplementary injury insurance in case they are injured while volunteering, Rowberry said.

“We want the community to know that there are all these volunteer programs going on around them,” Rowberry said. “These seniors are using all these life skills to benefit others.”

Volunteering requires a short interview, some paperwork, a background check and education about policies and procedures, Rowberry said.

Those interested in volunteering may call Weber Human Services at 801-625-3770 and ask for one of the three programs.

BZ 043018 RSVP Volunteer Bob Cannon 03-2

Pins related to railroad history and volunteer work decorate Bob Cannon's vest in Ogden on Monday, April 30, 2018. Cannon earned the 3100 pin after completing 3,100 volunteer hours at Union Station. However, Cannon says that he has recently passed the 3,500-hour mark and needs to update his pin.

You can reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis

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