April is National Volunteer Month and the perfect opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers who bestow their time, talent, and support for the betterment of their communities. Northwest Iowa RSVP honors the volunteers, all 55+, who bring their lifetime of experience and wisdom to support others throughout the year.

“During April, we salute volunteers and recognize everyone who takes the time to help others. We applaud the spirit and generosity that drives volunteers to serve a cause greater than themselves. Acts of kindness help build a better and brighter future and remind us that we can all play a role in making our communities safer, healthier, and stronger,” said Northwest Iowa RSVP Director and Kossuth County Coordinator.

RSVP is one of three national AmeriCorps Seniors programs managed and grant funded by AmeriCorps. In 2021, Northwest Iowa RSVP marks 44 years of service in Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth, and Palo Alto counties. Iowa Lakes Community College has served as the program’s only local sponsor since starting in 1977.

RSVP coordinates volunteers’ skills, experience, and interests for placement in volunteer opportunities with area schools, food banks, medical transportation, and community-based activities and events. These volunteer opportunities support K-12 Education Success, impact food insecurity through home-delivered meals and food pantry distributions, provide medical transportation for county residents, and help with a wide-range of community-based activities and events.

“Volunteer commitment to serving others champions our communities’ success and prosperity and, RSVP volunteers share freely of their time and talents,” explained Bernhard. “Since July 1, 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, Northwest Iowa RSVP has welcomed 76 new volunteers to our service family. These volunteers want to contribute to the survival of their communities and are willing to observe health and safety protocols to make that difference.”

Volunteers lift the spirits of their communities with their service! Nationally, over 200,000 RSVP volunteers are actively involved in their communities. During the past pandemic year, 286 Northwest Iowa RSVP volunteers have served 20,479 hours in their communities.

Clay: In Clay County, 42 RSVP volunteers dedicated 3,256 hours as Pen Pals with Fairview 3rd grade and Sacred Heart 4th grade students; sorted, organized, and delivered free Literacy Partners books to all pre-K through 6th-grade students in Spencer area schools; provided Home-Delivered Meals; prepared and served meals for area residents; assisted the Mobile Food Pantry hosted by Spencer Seventh Day Adventist Church; managed donations at Many Hands Market; and completed many sewing and knitting projects for Clay County residents.

Dickinson: In Dickinson County, 91 RSVP volunteers dedicated 5,576 hours as Pen Pals and reading buddies with Spirit Lake and Okoboji Schools; organized and delivered free Literacy Partners books to area students; recorded book videos to compliment the Literacy Partners book distribution to all first graders in the Okoboji School District; wrote letters to socially isolated county residents; sewed face masks and completed other sewing projects; assisted with the Dickinson County Nature Center when opened to the public; served American Red Cross blood drives; were Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) counselors; supported food security efforts with Meals on Wheels/Volunteer Action Center, Upper Des Moines Opportunity, Inc. (UDMO) and Dickinson County Community Gardens; advocated for children in the court system; groomed area walking and biking trails; managed donations and distributions for Thee Garage Sale; and were involved in many community activities and events.

Emmet: In Emmet County, 51 volunteers dedicated 5,047 hours as Pen Pals with Forest Ridge,  Estherville Public Schools, and North Union Schools students; sewed and distributed more than 3,000 cloth face masks to those in need; managed donations and prepared new facilities for Thrifty’s; served as Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) counselors; supported food security efforts with the Mobile Food Pantry/Good News Church, UDMO and the Estherville Senior Center; managed and conducted research at the Emmet County Historical Museum; served American Red Cross Blood Drives; and supported a wide range of community activities and events.

Kossuth: In Kossuth County, 65 RSVP volunteers dedicated 4,588 hours as Pen Pals and Virtual Reading Buddies with elementary students; sewed and distributed over 1,500 cloth face masks; worked at vaccine call centers and vaccine clinics for Kossuth Regional Health Center and Community Health; supported food security efforts with the Kossuth County Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels; recorded book videos to compliment the Literacy Partners book distribution to all first-grade students in the county, wrote letters to socially isolated county residents, assisted Exceptional Treasurers, the Kossuth County CARE Team and the Kossuth County Historical Society. Volunteers helped with LifeServe blood drives and offered support, concern, and transportation to neighbors and friends in need. RSVP partnered with the Algona Public Library to launch Virtual Reading and Algona Noon Kiwanis to establish Literacy Partners.

Palo Alto: In Palo Alto County, 37 volunteers dedicated 1,835 hours to sew cloth face masks (one volunteer recorded over 76 hours) for those in need; support food security efforts with Feed Our Kids; provided service with the Emmetsburg Multi-Purpose Center, St. Pat’s Association, the Veterans’ Administration, Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce, Lakeside Lutheran Home, Palo Alto County Health Systems and West Elementary.

In addition to helping others, RSVP volunteers also help themselves by living active, healthy lives through volunteering. A growing body of research points to mental and physical health benefits associated with volunteering, including lower mortality rates, increased strength and energy, decreased rates of depression, and fewer physical limitations.

For more information about Northwest Iowa RSVP opportunities, please contact the RSVP Coordinator on the physically closest Iowa Lakes Community College campus:

  • Algona – Dawn Bernhard, 515.295-8522
  • Emmetsburg – Casee Ross, 712.852.5351
  • Estherville – Linda Anderson, 712.362.7929
  • Spencer – Dorothy DeGroot, 712.262.8858
  • Spirit Lake – DeNeitt VanDenBroeke, 712.336.6577

MEDIA: For more information, please contact Kossuth County RSVP Coordinator Dawn Bernhard at 515-295-8522 or dbernhard@iowalakes.educreate new email.