Guest blog submission from Lorrie Long, Director of Southern Iowa RSVP
Southern Iowa RSVP was awarded a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service in August of 2017, which has allowed us to launch a new and expanded program. We are now servicing four counties (Clarke, Decatur, Ringgold and Union) whereas previously we were servicing only two counties. Our primary focus is Education with our secondary focus on Other Community Priorities. We are hiring a part time Site Coordinator for each town where there is a school. There are two schools in each county. Currently we have seven Site Coordinators actively involved in establishing stations and enrolling volunteers to serve, with another potential Site Coordinator “in the wings”.
This is an exciting time for those involved –Site Coordinators, their volunteers, and the stations where they are serving. We currently have 27 stations (goal – 30 stations: eight in Education and 22 in Other Community Priorities), 52 volunteers (goal -144: 104 in Education and 40 in Other Community Priorities), and are servicing 710 students (goal – 312) in schools. At a recent meeting, Site Coordinators shared their unique experiences in recruiting volunteers that included the following:
- A couple of Site Coordinators are relatively new in their communities and both stated that building trust is essential “and it works!” Robin exclaimed.
- Danny noted, “I connect with potential volunteers wherever I see them; often at the Coffee Shop.”
- Another Site Coordinator has focused on enrolling former teachers.
I recently met with one of our Site Coordinators and her volunteers. The volunteers enjoyed talking about their experiences with the “kids”. Not only do they enjoy helping them learn but find pleasure when one of their students recognizes them in the community – often with a hug from the younger ones.
And recipients of volunteer service recognize, too, that the relationships formed are as valuable as the lessons learned. One volunteer talked about a student she worked with over several years. That student made it a point to come back to visit her even after he had graduated from high school. Another station manager commented that the students that volunteers assist after school (in a former church parsonage) stay around after they are finished with their lessons just to visit with the adults. They are forming trusting relationships and that “feels good”!
The “exciting time” for Southern Iowa RSVP is just the beginning of what we anticipate accomplishing over the next few years as we form additional trusting relationships with students and community members. We anticipate that the very culture of the small communities where we reside will become stronger with a sense of pride in who they are –and who knows where those students will go and what they will do? But, we do know that building positive, trusting relationships gives them a firmer foundation from which to “go”.