Palo Alto County RSVP Needs More Pen Pal Program Volunteers

Iowa Lakes news

(Emmetsburg, Iowa) Do you remember the joy of receiving a letter as a child? And then, taking the time to write a reply and mail it out? Although writing and sending letters may seem like a lost art, the Pen Pal program organized by Northwest Iowa RSVP aims to bring that simple joy to local youth.

Northwest Iowa RSVP, a federal AmeriCorps volunteer program for individuals 55 or above, is searching for 52 volunteers to join the RSVP Pen Pal program and connect with Palo Alto students through letters for the Fall 2022 semester beginning in September.

The Pen Pal literacy project is an engaging, real-life way for students to practice communication and reading skills. For adults, especially those who want to volunteer but have limited time or travel outside the area, the Pen Pal program is a fantastic way to learn about life from a student’s perspective and to share life experiences and stories.

Currently, there are two Pen Pal projects specifically for Palo Alto County volunteers: West Elementary fourth grade from September through early December and Emmetsburg Catholic School third grade from February through early May.

In addition to the Emmetsburg schools, volunteers may also choose a Pen Pal project in Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, or Kossuth counties. Each Pen Pal project will wrap up with an in-person meet and greet that lasts approximately one hour at the school participating in the project.

Myram Tunnicliff, an Emmetsburg resident, is a Palo Alto County RSVP volunteer and an enthusiastic supporter of the Pen Pal program. Tunnicliff has participated in Pen Pals with West Elementary fourth grade and Emmetsburg Catholic School third grade since 2014.

 “Anyone who would enjoy a great experience needs to volunteer with the RSVP Pen Pal program. I have been teamed with children, both boys and girls, and all of them have been a true delight. I felt I got more out of the letter exchange each year than the students themselves. While the youngsters are learning the correct way to write a letter and address an envelope, volunteers can learn about our younger generation, and there is no doubt the students are amazed at what they learn from their older Pen Pals. RSVP Pen Pals is a win-win proposition. Sign up to volunteer!” exclaims Tunnicliff.

The Pen Pal program matches a volunteer one-on-one with third or fourth-grade students to exchange letters. Each volunteer receives information that includes guidelines and program specifics, a full schedule for writing letters, and ideas on potential topics. Volunteers and students know each other by name and what they learn from each other throughout the writing project. Each volunteer writes three letters during the program.

AmeriCorps, the federal agency that is the parent organization for the RSVP program, brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges through national service and volunteering. AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Senior volunteers serve with organizations dedicated to improving communities and promoting service to others as a cornerstone of American culture. Learn more at

Northwest Iowa RSVP has been meeting community needs in partnership with Iowa Lakes Community College since 1977.

To join the Palo Alto County RSVP Pen Pal program, please contact Kathy Pudenz, Palo Alto County RSVP Coordinator, at 712-852-5236 or email

To learn about Pen Pal programs in Clay, Dickinson, Emmet or Kossuth counties, please contact Dawn Bernhard, Northwest Iowa RSVP Director, at 515-295-8522 or email