Now that the holidays have passed, and people are sheltering at home to avoid the cold and the COVID-19 pandemic, that weary winter feeling may be starting to set in. Volunteering with the Northwest Iowa RSVP volunteer program will help break the monotony.

In January 2021, RSVP has several rewarding volunteer options for those who wish to contribute comfortably from home. Virtual Reading, Pen Pals, and National History Day virtual judging are ideal for making a difference in students’ lives in our communities from your couch or dining room table! Volunteers must be at least 55 years or older to participate in Northwest Iowa RSVP programs.

The RSVP Virtual Reading project is a new venture focused on connecting beginning or struggling readers with a virtual volunteer for reading-aloud practice. Working in conjunction with area schools, libraries, and reading programs, Virtual Reading will match volunteers with a student to meet via Zoom for short reading sessions. To be part of the Virtual Reading project, volunteers will need a computer and access to the internet. For volunteers interested in the project but without access to devices or technology, RSVP can provide either or both to volunteers for use exclusively with students. Training is also available for volunteers who want to become more comfortable with Zoom.

Another aspect of Virtual Reading is the chance to record videos for classroom use by teachers. Each month will feature books of a specific theme highlighting various observances from a book holiday calendar, such as Dr. Seuss Day in March. Volunteers may work in pairs, wearing masks and social distancing, to film each other reading books. Additional options include volunteers recording themselves with smartphones or computers and submitting videos to RSVP, or RSVP staff can record videos by appointment and following pandemic safety protocol. Campuses of Iowa Lakes Community College, the local sponsor of Northwest Iowa RSVP, may be used for video recording.

Pen Pals is a signature program of Northwest Iowa RSVP and has been in area schools for more than 15 years. Volunteers are matched one-on-one with 3rd or 4th-grade students to exchange letters over a defined time. Pen Pal programs in Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, and Kossuth will begin in January and again in March. Registration for both sessions is open now.

This year, a new opportunity available for Northwest Iowa RSVP volunteers includes a chance to serve as a virtual National History Day judge. The 2021 National History Day in Iowa contest season will be held virtually this year, with district contests taking place from late January to late March. The 2021 National History Day in Iowa state contest occurs from Thursday, April 15, to Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Judges are needed to evaluate projects online. To participate, volunteers will need access to the internet, a computer, and an email address.

Judges for National History Day in Iowa will receive everything needed to become a judge, including judging materials, training materials, and a Virtual Judge Training Webinar for all volunteer judges to watch before the contest. Judges will work in teams of two and will need to communicate with their teammates about ranking and comments. This winter is the perfect time to get cozy in your favorite warm spot and become a Pen Pal, National History Day judge, or Virtual Reader through the RSVP program. Please contact the RSVP office at your nearest Iowa Lakes Community College campus to learn more and begin your RSVP volunteer journey:

AmeriCorps, the federal agency and 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 the improvement of communities. AmeriCorps helps make service to others a cornerstone of our national culture. Learn more at  opens in a new windowAmeriCorps.gov.

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

For More Information:

RSVP Coordinator Dawn Bernhard at 515-295-8522 or dbernhard@iowalakes.educreate new email