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RSVP updates Hancock County supervisors on its plans, projects

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On Dec. 20, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Director Molly Anderegg and Dean of NIACC Continuing Education Patti Hanson updated Hancock County supervisors on RSVP programs and made their budget request for the next fiscal year.

Anderegg said the budget request amount is not changed from last year. RSVP requested $5,000 last December, which supervisors later approved. It is a program for people ages 55 and older, who want to volunteer in their community.

RSVP of North Central Iowa is the volunteer organization that has helped several area communities and schools, including West Hancock, Garner, Forest City, and Lake Mills.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization assisted via some innovative means, working online with West Hancock students as well as the Cerro Gordo Emergency Management Call Center.

But now RSVP volunteers have largely returned to the schools to work with students in person.

"We feel volunteers are such an important piece of our communities," Hanson said. "The volunteers are back serving in schools. Teachers and principals have welcomed them back with open arms. Everyone is happy to be as status quo as possible."

Anderegg noted that some volunteers continue to express some hesitancy about returning in-person due to COVID-19 concerns. She said those volunteers are being allowed flexibility to ease back into the schedule at their own pace and are able to take time off until they feel ready.

"COVID shined a light on the importance of RSVP volunteers," Anderegg said. "Student reading scores were adversely impacted. The residual effects of COVID are so big on teachers, educators, and students. Emotional support is a big factor as well. We are so glad almost everyone is back. People are back and serving a lot of students through Pen Pals and Reading Buddies (RSVP programs)."

Hanson noted that while there were less RSVP volunteers, the number of volunteer hours were not significantly down. In addition, a volunteer center was created at NIACC to help get students involved with volunteer efforts. She said RSVP volunteers are encouraged each year to refer other people as volunteers.

RSVP of North Central Iowa also has a new volunteer coordinator, Alison Mason, who began her new duties earlier this year. She has been working hard to help recruit new volunteers. The local organization held its Pen Pals kickoff at local libraries this year, including Garner. The program helps students practice writing, increase literacy skills, and build positive multi-generational relationships with RSVP volunteers.

"Your volunteers are good and it's hard to get them," supervisor Sis Greiman said. "It's a good program."

Hanson said that since volunteers are typically older, there still is a lack of online skills and social media engagement with some, but that the volunteer base, and that particular dynamic, is changing for the better. She said the organization is seeking to hire a new community education coordinator by sometime early next year to serve the area and work in Garner.

Supervisors took no action on the budget request during the meeting. The request will be considered as part of the county's upcoming budget process.

In other business, supervisors authorized the county auditor to to sign a Moody’s finance rating application as part of the bond process for several upcoming county projects.

Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at rob.hillesland@globegazette.com.

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