LAMONI — “While the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is just getting started in our area,” said Jesse Bolinger, RSVP director, “it is over 40 years old and is America’s largest volunteer network for people 55 and over with more than 400,000 volunteers nationwide.”
RSVP is affiliated with Graceland University and the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. It is a Youth Launch Commission program.
It is also a federal program of the Corporation for National and Community Service with 760 programs nationwide, 24 of which are in Iowa that traces its roots back to 1973.
RSVP projects link the skills of senior volunteers with community needs.
“RSVP provides orientation and training, but we realize the true benefit of the program is the lifelong experiences our participants bring to us,” Bolinger said.
“The wonderful side effect of RSVP is that older Americans who volunteer frequently live longer and report better health while they continue to contribute.” he added.
The local RSVP will concentrate activities in early childhood development and disaster response in Decatur and Ringgold Counties.
Bolinger will begin contacting schools and learning centers to develop relationships aimed at connecting senior volunteers with literacy needs for underprivileged and under-served children. RSVP’s other function, disaster relief, centers on locating volunteers to provide critical disaster assistance like providing shelter, working at shelters, and transporting victims.
“Over 36 percent of Iowa’s senior residents volunteer. Iowa’s record of volunteerism is fifth best in America,” said Greg Sutherland, Graceland University’s director of affiliate relations responsible for program development with Graceland’s various partners. “We hope to be able to harness some of that senior power in our communities to improve literacy among our young people and to be ready in times of need.”
RSVP volunteers choose how, where, and how often they want to serve, with commitments ranging from a few hours to 40 hours per week. For more information about RSVP programs, visit its website at www.graceland.edu/rsvp or call 641-784-5379.