The most effective method for recruiting volunteers, said Melody Prevatte, Southeastern
Community College’s Director of Volunteer Services, is word of mouth. Another valuable attraction can be the good times volunteers have together.
Prevatte is retiring Thursday, Oct. 12 after 24 years at the community college. Said SCC president Anthony Clarke, “The volunteers speak highly of her and admire her. She has the respect of everyone
she works with.”
Prevatte began working at SCC in 1993 as a Job Training Partnership Act counselor. For four years she assisted displaced manufacturing workers to retrain for new occupations.
In 1997 she became director of the Retired and Senior Volunteers Program, where she has recruited senior volunteers to fill a variety of needs.
The community college’s website describes RSVP this way: “RSVP volunteers work in literacy, nutrition, and independent living. They provide food and clothes to the needy,
teach children to read, deliver hot meals to seniors, or bring smiles to home bound
The volunteer determines how much time to give and to which assignments. The volunteers
are able to give back to the community their time and talents. Columbus County is fortunate
to have one of the 700 local programs nationwide, and one of the 17 in North Carolina.”
At last count RSVP had 303 volunteers, Prevatte said. “The only requirement is that a person
be 55 years old.” Prevatte earned a bachelor’s degree from UNC-Pembroke, a master’s degree from Fayetteville State University and a doctorate in education from East Carolina University.
Prevatte’s peers in the N.C. Association of Volunteer Administration honored her as Volunteer Administrator of the Year in 2011. The Columbus County Farmers Market named her 2012 Community Partner of the Year.
In 2014 she received the N.C. Governor’s Medallion Award for Outstanding Volunteer
Service. This year she received a certificate of appreciation from the N.C. Dept. of Insurance as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the N.C. Association of Volunteer Administration.
Prevatte has written columns for this paper extolling the power of volunteers to make a difference in the lives of those receiving help; her most recent essay pointed out how volunteer service also helps the person giving it. “There is a large body of research showing that volunteerism promotes happiness and health,” said Prevatte. “Also people who volunteer are more likely to take part in faith-based activities.”
Yet sometimes people hesitate to get started because they feel inadequate to attempt certain jobs, Prevatte said. For example, “One of the hardest volunteer positions we recruit for is being a ‘reading buddy’ in a school. A reading buddy listens to a child read their reading assignments. The buddy doesn’t teach.”
People mistakenly think of the buddy as a tutor, she said. But once they try out the job, “they fall in love with the students and vice versa. They make a huge impact. We get some of our most exciting feedback from the volunteers in that program.” RSVP, which was set up in 1973, is funded by a grant that requires Prevatte and her team to provide disaster-readiness education as well as support the schools.
Prevatte has presented talks at statewide conferences with other volunteer administrators
at which the participants “gleaned ideas” from one another about how best to serve their communities.
She hopes her retirement will allow her to spend more time on “canoeing, hiking, biking
and all that fun stuff ” with her husband James Prevatte and their two grandsons. Even if traveling, Prevatte will keep in touch with the academic world, however, by teaching online psychology classes. Her replacement has not yet been named.
Beverly Nance, Prevatte’s immediate supervisor in SCC’s Office of Workplace and Community
Development, said Prevatte “has been an asset to the college. She definitely has a strong compassion for working with senior citizens, which has been reflected for many years in the programs she’s afforded the college to sponsor with this grant.
“The success of RSVP can be attributed to her leadership ability, dedication and loyalty to serving her target population.” Not only has Prevatte brought competence and compassion to her position, but her “very pleasant demeanor” makes her enjoyable to have around, said Nance. “She always has a smile on her face, no matter what the day brings.
“She’s definitely made a difference in the lives of many people, and she’ll be greatly missed” by her colleagues at SCC, said Nance. “We wish her the best in her retirement,” said Clarke.