Guest submission from former Volunteer Iowa Commissioner, Jeanine Nemitz, Foster Grandparent Program Director (Fort Dodge)
Serving as a Commissioner with Volunteer Iowa from 2014-2017 gave me a great opportunity to witness the commitment of my fellow Iowans to making this state a great place to live, work, raise a family, and retire in. Through the work of Volunteer Iowa I was able to celebrate the accomplishments of Iowans who manage community clean-up efforts, provide food for those in need, serve veterans, and mentor students who are at risk.
Volunteer Iowa is the lead organization in providing training and recognition to those who recruit, train, and celebrate volunteers. Commissioners come from every corner of the State to advise agency staff on policies and procedures that contribute to National Service and general volunteering in our state and ensure that leaders at the Iowa Statehouse are aware of the efforts being made by Iowans to reach out to our neighbors and communities to make a difference.
One of my favorite aspects of serving as a commissioner was being a part of the Volunteer Engagement Committee. This committee had the opportunity to recognize those who truly stand out for their volunteer efforts. Bi-weekly, a volunteer is featured as one of the “50 Faces of Volunteering” in Iowa on the Volunteer Iowa Facebook and Twitter pages. From 4-H Leaders to baseball coaches, hospital volunteers to service clubs, this recognition opportunity shines the spotlight on the great work being done across our state to help ensure that needs are being met.
While celebrating the accomplishments of every day volunteers is an important part of the mission of Volunteer Iowa; managing and training for National Service programs is at the heart of the work. According to data from the Corporation for National & Community Service, “more than 6,700 people are helping to meet local needs, strengthen communities, and increase civic engagement through national service in Iowa.” Commissioners with Volunteer Iowa have an opportunity to decide which agencies will be selected to provide results-driven service addressing the most important needs across the state. During my time as a Commissioner, we also had the opportunity to approve a formula for distribution of state funding for RSVP projects that is fair and equitable for those agencies who recruit and place volunteers age 55 and older in meaningful service here at home.
As a Foster Grandparent Program Director and a representative to the commission on behalf of the Iowa Foster Grandparent & Senior Companion Association, it was my privilege to be able to bring success stories to my fellow commissioners. I was able to share how Foster Grandparents are making a difference for nearly 4,000 young Iowans who have special needs or benefit from literacy tutoring. Relating stories of 1,000 or more homebound individuals who experience the independence that comes from being able to stay in their own homes due to the assistance from a Senior Companion was a treat. The bonus of both of these programs is that income eligible volunteers also earn a tax-free stipend in return for their service commitment of at least 15 hours per week.
Celebrating these accomplishments and helping to make them possible is a big benefit of serving as a Commissioner with Volunteer Iowa; however, the opportunity to serve with a state agency that celebrates the best in all of us is the true advantage. Meeting like-minded people from throughout the state and knowing that what we have in common is the desire to promote opportunities for our friends and neighbors to make life better for one another is a true Iowa tradition! It has been said that the reason why most people don’t volunteer is because they haven’t been asked; serving as a Commissioner with Volunteer Iowa gave me a reason to both ask and encourage people to reach out and make a difference. I truly appreciate the opportunity to serve with Volunteer Iowa. I only hope I’ve made as big of a difference for the organization as it has made for me.
Volunteer Iowa would like to thank Jeanine for her many years of service as a Commissioner. We are incredibly grateful for her volunteer time and talents in her role!