Jean Ann Moon

Longtime RSVP director Jean Ann Moon is shown blowing bubbles at the grand opening of the new building.

Jean Ann Moon has retired after a long 28-year career with Marshall County RSVP, the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program.

With the pandemic still in full swing, she can’t have a regular retirement reception. But there will be a drive-through retirement event Wednesday, October 21, from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the new RSVP building north of the river bridge.

The drive-through appreciation event is open to the public. Jean Ann isn’t much on gifts. But she would love to have cards or notes from people sharing their favorite memories from RSVP. She will be in the portico of the building and people can roll down their window to say hello.

Jean Ann and her board of directors were the ramrods who saw the new building through, after planning it for many years.

Earlier this year, Jean Ann recounted how far RSVP had come since she started in 1992.

“The first 5 years I was with RSVP, we were at the old hospital (where Regions Bank is now),” Jean Ann said. “We had two rooms and a closet. If you were not a quilter or worked the front desk at the hospital, there wasn’t a lot of reason for you to come to RSVP.”

Once asbestos was discovered in the old hospital, RSVP moved in back of what is now Mike’s Merchandise/Crazy Cazboy’s.

“The building sold to Mike Jones,” Jean Ann said. “The county found places for everyone else but couldn’t find anything for us. Mike said we could stay.”

Volunteers put up sheetrock and built restrooms to transform the space into RSVP’s new home. It would serve as their home for the next 18 years and RSVP would blossom to more than 600 volunteers.

“My background was as a swimmer and canoer and I knew we wanted to do something with water since water is such a prominent feature here,” Jean Ann said. “We also had all kinds of NASA people and other scientists and engineers retiring here.”

RSVP partnered with TVA and started its award-winning Water Watch water monitoring program.

Later, the Reading Buddies program started, pairing adult volunteers with struggling readers in every elementary school in the county.

“We had a lot of people interested in children’s book and literacy,” Jean Ann said.

12 years ago, RSVP got a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to start its mountain dulcimer program. They bought 10 dulcimers and started offering classes.

It was a springboard to other music programs and those are perhaps RSVP’s most popular and active programs. The other music programs are the RSVP chorus and the RSVP Ukesters, a ukulele group.

“There was a need for people to be able to express themselves with music and that led to these three avenues,” Jean Ann said.

The RSVP computer lab was a very popular program when computers were just getting big and older folks didn’t know a lot about them. Everyone seems to know about computers these days, although the computer lab still exists.

RSVP also has a large free tax preparation program that prepares returns for hundreds of people every year all over Marshall County.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Jean Ann said, the program had over 1,000 volunteers. But volunteering isn’t as popular as it once was, not just with RSVP but across the board.

Many, many RSVP volunteers have received Presidential awards for giving hundreds hours of service over their lifetimes.

While Jean Ann is retiring, she will still be close. She will transition into an RSVP volunteer now.

“I’m going to be a Water Watch volunteer,” she said.

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