We often think that a life well-lived is mostly about what people have already done in their lives. When people reach the point of retirement or semi-retirement after working hard their entire lives, they leave behind the stress of work emails, early alarms, and upcoming deadlines. Then, they start a new journey of possibly working on hobbies, spending more time with family, or checking off items from a bucket list. Many people wonder what to do next. How do people fill their extra “free time” and create purpose once the initial excitement of retirement is over?
Mick Wolfram has been pondering this question for some time. Wolfram is semi-retired and looking for ways to fulfill the hours he previously worked as a pastor and thinking about what he might do to fill even more hours when he steps down from his current part-time job responsibilities. Finally, Wolfram seems to have found an answer to that question through his service opportunities as a Dickinson County RSVP volunteer.
After responding to an article about the RSVP Pen Pal program, Wolfram initially became an RSVP volunteer in 2020. Since then, he has been a Pen Pal for students at Graettinger-Terril, Spirit Lake, and Okoboji elementary schools.
The Pen Pal program is an intergenerational program that links 3rd or 4th-grade students with RSVP volunteers 55 and older. The program includes correspondence through letter writing and a face-to-face Meet and Greet Pen Pal party allowing students to practice writing, increase literacy skills and build positive multigenerational relationships. The simple program requires little time, yet it is rewarding for everyone involved, including the volunteers, students, and teachers.
When asked about his favorite part of being a Pen Pal, Wolfram responded, “I like receiving the letters, relating to the children, and positively impacting their lives. I also enjoy sharing my experiences, meeting the kids, and seeing the smiles on their faces at the Meet and Greet party.”
Besides his experiences as a Pen Pal, Wolfram also volunteers as a Reading Buddy at one of the local elementary schools and reads to 1st-grade students at Okoboji Elementary School during the RSVP Dickinson County Literacy Partners book distributions twice a year.
“I have found volunteering with RSVP to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. It is an opportunity to have a positive influence on the lives of others, a way to teach life skills, and help with the educational process,” shared Wolfram.
A well-lived life can start at any time and go beyond work and familial contributions. One of the best ways to begin or continue living a well-lived life is by adding in volunteering. At this moment, someone can benefit from encouragement, attention, helpful words, skills, experience, and presence provided by volunteers.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities available through RSVP in your county, contact Dawn Bernhard, the Northwest Iowa RSVP Director, at 515-295-8522 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org new email.
Additional information and an online volunteer application are also available on the Iowa Lakes Community College website at iowalakes.edu/rsvp.
RSVP is a national AmeriCorps Seniors program that matches volunteers with service opportunities to meet community needs. RSVP has been sponsored in Northwest Iowa by Iowa Lakes Community College since 1977 with programs in Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth, and Palo Alto Counties. Although RSVP volunteers must be 55 or older, they can serve people of all ages.