A popular volunteer program that closed in the summer of 2011 is back and active again in Webster City and Hamilton County.
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program - or RSVP - had been in existence for 35 years before cuts in funding forced its closure June 2011. The program had provided volunteers for 40 different entities, including the Free Clinic, Dows Historical Society and Welcome Center, Van Diest Medical Center, U-Share, area schools for tutoring and area nursing homes.
The program is now under the direction of Central Iowa RSVP, which is based out of Story City. The agency also oversees programs in Marshall, Story, and Webster counties. Becky Koppen is the new volunteer coordinator for the Hamilton County RSVP office and the office is right back in the same location it had before the closure - in the front section of the Webster City Senior and Community Center.
Becky Koppen, left, is the new volunteer coordinator for the Hamilton County office of the Central Iowa RSVP?agency. Her office is located in the Webster City Senior and Community Center.
Koppen, who lives near Woolstock with her husband, said she recently "retired" from her career as a homeschool mom. She home-schooled her six children over a 25-year span. Her youngest child graduated from high school last year.
"When I saw this opportunity when they thought the funding was coming bac and called the director in Story City," she said. She was hired for the position and Koppen began her duties in October.
Koppen said she works directly with the program director in Story County and coordinates volunteers for a variety of programs here. She said her first project was to re-establish the pen pal program. The program pairs senior volunteers with third grade students who then write letters back and forth to each other.
"That's been a favorite around here for a number of years," she said. "I had to find enough volunteers to write letters to 119 children in Webster City."
Koppen said she was fortunate to have the list of the last group of volunteers. Most agreed to return to the program.
That was just for starters, she said. She's also been working on getting people to help with Meals on Wheels; volunteers for Van Diest Medical Center and Hamilton County Public Health; volunteer drivers who assist veterans with travel to appointments and doctor visits; craft and bingo helpers at nursing homes and elementary school reading helpers. The volunteers also assist at Upper Des Moines Opportunity, HeadStart and Webster City Daycare. Now, Koppen's working with the Friends Forever Social Education Center to get volunteers involved with activities at the center.
"We had a Christmas coffee there and invited a lot of the RSVP volunteers to attend and see what goes on at the center," she said. About 10 volunteers attended and spent time with the Friends Forever members.
Koppen said she also hopes to develop a program to help the Youth and Family Center.
"There are times when they have to take children out of a home - kind of an emergency situation," she said. "Those kids don't have a chance to pack a bag or anything. We would like to make Foster Care Bags that the social worker can take along in those situations."
The bags would contain personal care items like toothbrushes, tooth paste, shampoo, deodorant, wash cloths, perhaps a small toy or a book. She said she's hoping area businesses could help with donations of items and she's looking for volunteers to help assemble the bags.
"This would be something that could ease that transition - something that would be their own when they get to that new home," she said.
Koppen said the face of her volunteers are changing. Many of them are newly retired and very active in the community. She added that studies have shown that volunteering can provide many benefits to those who get involved.
"They have shown that those who volunteer are healthier. There's less depression and it feels good to volunteer. It makes you feel satisfied to know that you've helped someone," she said. "And it's just fun and exciting to be part of a group like this."
Anyone over age 55 in this case - to stop by her office Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or they can call 832-2525. Koppen also encouraged area nonprofit agencies and organizations to contact her if volunteers are needed for projects.