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Volunteers sought for RSVP program reboot

The Retired and Seniors Volunteer Program matches volunteers age 55 and older to opportunities that match their interests.

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Helping hands. thinkstock.com

A program that matches seniors with volunteer opportunities in the community is returning to Douglas County.

Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency has been officially selected to be the new home of the county’s Retired and Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP). The nonprofit organization aims to recruit 150 volunteers to share their skills with others.

“I think our seniors are an untapped market,” said the agency's Chief Executive Officer Millie Rounsville. “I think individuals have a lot of skills that can be passed on towards others.”

Area seniors may have some extra free time, but struggle with finding a volunteer opportunity that fits their interests. Meanwhile, nonprofits, schools and public organizations such as museums and meal sites, are seeking volunteers, but may not have resources to recruit them.

The federal RSVP program serves as the matchmaker. Volunteers apply to the program, making their skills and preferences known; programs, schools and agencies are established as stations in need of help. The program provider then pairs them up, with a focus on meeting community needs while enriching the lives of volunteers.

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RELATED:

  • Sponsor closes Foster Grandparent, RSVP programs Catholic Community Services has announced that it will no longer sponsor the Foster Grandparent and Retired Senior Volunteer (RSVP) programs after June 30, when the current grant cycle ends. The move effectively shutters both Senior Corps program...

“One of the benefits for the site or station is we’re recruiting volunteers to match their need,” Rounsville said, and the helpers are covered under the program’s insurance.
Volunteers can choose how much or how little they want to volunteer. A stipend is available to help with transportation costs, such as a bus pass or mileage reimbursement.

Douglas County had an active RSVP program for more than 40 years, but it ended in 2019 when Catholic Community Services made the decision to stop sponsoring it. At the time, volunteers were serving at 50 different sites or stations. A similar program that was offered by Catholic Community Services, Foster Grandparents, will not get a reboot.

The four other counties Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency serves have active RSVP programs, coordinated by a director out of Ashland. Rounsville said there are currently 175 volunteers in the program among the four counties — Ashland, Bayfield, Iron and Price.

“Many of the smaller nonprofits in our rural areas wouldn’t be able to provide the services for the community without the use of volunteers,” she said. “The thrift stores, they’re all staffed with volunteers; public museums, the libraries. Obviously, the things with working one-on-one with the students, both at the Head Start level and the traditional school grades. Those are all things that wouldn’t happen without RSVP volunteers.”

Launching a new Douglas County program makes sense, she said, as the nonprofit already has the forms, materials and working knowledge of RSVP.

The nonprofit has been waiting a year to bring the program back. Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency received grant funding for the Douglas County program in early 2020, but wasn’t able to roll it out before the pandemic put everything on pause, Rounsville said.

To sign up for the RSVP program as a volunteer or a work site, contact Jenny Van Sickle, director of the Lew Martin Senior Center, at 715-394-3644 or via email at seniorcenter@northwest-csa.org .

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The search is on for a full-time program director to oversee Douglas County’s RSVP program, as well. Applications will be accepted through mid-September.

“Shoot us a resume,” Rounsville said.

She expected that RSVP volunteers would begin working at community sites in Douglas County by late November.

Related Topics: NONPROFITSSUPERIOR
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