Last year, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP, expanded to six Iowa counties with the addition of Mitchell and Franklin counties. 

Director Molly Anderegg is focused on bringing RSVP's core programming to Mitchell County.

RSVP is a federal volunteer program for individuals 55 years or older which comes from the same program as the funding for the foster grandparents program.

The RSVP reading buddies provide extra one-on-one encouragement for students who are learning to read. In addition, RSVP has a one-on-one mentoring program for the middle school, where the RSVP member and the student read from the same book, setting up good reading patterns.

Local sponsorship comes from NIACC.

“Some students need more help with reading, and don’t have a grandparent in their lives. NIACC was seeing students come in who were not up to reading levels and had to take some remedial classes," Anderegg said.

RSVP also has a pen pals program which has been used as a writing lesson by teachers whose students were involved in the program.

“Students and RSVP members write six letters a year, with a reveal party in June,” said Anderegg. “The focus is on building generational interaction between students and seniors. Pen Pals is one program where volunteers who don’t get around well can still work with the students from home.”

Anderegg spoke before the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors at the Tuesday, Dec. 19 meeting, to ask for $5,000 in local funding for RSVP to help leverage the federal funding, describing the program as being plainly operated.

“What we normally do is to go through the department budgets over the next three to four weeks,” said Supervisor Stan Walk. “And once we know where we stand with the departments, we can make decisions about funding for programs. We may fund all, or we may scale it back and fund some. We don’t normally make a commitment right away.”

Andregg thanked the Supervisors, and asked that they let others know about the program, particularly those who might be willing to volunteer to be part of RSVP. The group offers training before the individuals are paired with students.

“I always tell people that our best recruiters are our own volunteers,” sand Andregg. “Sometimes all it takes is a suggestion from someone. Some students are really struggling; it’s eye opening how poor reading can follow a student all through school.”

Andregg also spoke of the difficulties that poor reading skills could cause to students even after they had finished their schooling and were out in the work force.

“These are the individuals that more resources end up being spent on because they end up in jail and unemployed and struggling with reading all of their lives. Taking time with a student when they are young can prevent those issues and change the course of that student’s life.”