RSVP Offered “Grab and Go” Volunteer Appreciation Events

(Estherville, Iowa) Northwest Iowa Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) offers appreciation to volunteers every year through in-person social events like ice cream socials. To meet COVID-19 safety protocols, RSVP staff creatively developed plans for drive-by “Grab and Go” events or direct-to-volunteer deliveries in each of the service areas five counties-Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth, and Palo Alto.

“Every year, RSVP hosts a recognition event in each county. Traditionally, we offer a sit-down meal with entertainment of some sort like the Iowa Lakes Community College band and choir students or a local piano talent or high school music students. Then, two years ago, we started an ice cream social in Kossuth – to encourage more attendees. Bottom line – this has been one of the most successful and well-attended recognitions in my RSVP tenure in Kossuth County! It was fun, simple, and quick” explains Dawn Bernhard, Northwest Iowa RSVP Director, and Kossuth County Coordinator.

Dickinson, Emmet, and Kossuth counties hosted drive-by “Grab and Go” events! With help from Advisory Council members, RSVP staged the drive-by events in the parking lots of Iowa Lakes Community College in Spirit Lake, Algona, and Estherville. Iowa Lakes is the local sponsor of the Northwest Iowa RSVP program.

On July 28, Dickinson and Kossuth counties invited all RSVP volunteers who had served hours since January 2019 to drive-by for the “Grab and Go” event. Volunteers received a Thank You gift bag filled with a customized cloth RSVP face mask, edible treats, bottled water, and a certificate for $10 in Chamber Bucks for their respective Chambers of Commerce.

Emmet County hosted a drive-by on August 11. For a few moments and with social distancing and face masks observed, volunteers and RSVP shared some smiles (reflected in their eyes) and personal connection from behind the wheel!

Clay County volunteers received certificates for Chamber Bucks and face masks via mail. Palo Alto County volunteers received face masks by personal home delivery. Gift certificates for $10 at a local restaurant were provided via mail for Palo Alto County.

RSVP partnered with Chambers of Commerce and a local food establishment in a win-win opportunity to recognize volunteer service and to stimulate local economic recovery impacted by COVID-19.

“People enjoyed getting out and getting a tangible and useful gift that they could choose how to use in the form of Chamber Bucks. I have already received more hand-written, and email thank-you’s than other years! So, COVID brought changes, but this could well be a positive impact!” exclaims Bernhard.

RSVP volunteers remain committed and adaptable to serving their respective communities within the safety and recommendations by the CDC for COVID 19. As more volunteer host sites resume volunteer engagement, some RSVP volunteers will return to active community service while others choose to contribute from the safety of home.

Northwest RSVP volunteers continue to serve others by sewing cloth masks and gowns for health care facilities, writing letters of encouragement to area nursing home and assisted living residents, writing letters of appreciation to health care staff. Volunteers are also making personal reassurance phone calls to people who are socially and physically isolated due to the pandemic and assisting with American Red Cross blood drives. Additionally, volunteers are helping with mobile food pantries, county food pantries, and charity-based thrift stores.

To make a difference in your community, join the RSVP volunteers in your county – membership is free to anyone age 55+. Local RSVP staff will work to find the best placements for volunteers based on interests, skills, and experience.

For More Information:

Dawn Bernhard at 515-295-8522 or