RSVP in Action

RSVP Volunteer Provides 'Invaluable' Service to Local Women's and Children's Shelter

According to an article in the Journal of Community Psychology (read the full article here), “when youth develop strong and engaging connections with their mentors, there is evidence that their capacity to relate well to others also increases”. The article also states, “youth with natural and volunteer mentors have been found to be more likely to graduate from high school and attend college and less likely to take part in delinquent problem behaviors”. Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) (Director, Lisa J. Braun) volunteer Rick Nelson, has dedicated his time to Anna Marie’s Alliance for over 5 years as a Youth Mentor to address these concerns and hopes to guide the children he works with on a positive, more successful path.

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The goal for Anna Marie’s Alliance, as stated on their website, is to “provide women and children experiencing domestic abuse with a safe place to stay and resources to eliminate/escape domestic abuse.”

Since April 2013, Rick has served as a Youth Mentor (as well as assisting in numerous other roles) at Anna Marie’s Alliance. He has served many hours there volunteering over 500 hours thus far in 2018! Rick is a dedicated volunteer even occasionally coming in on weekends to water the flowers, “make his rounds on the property” and check in with the children to see how they are doing.

Manager of Volunteer Services and In-Kind Donations, Kim Salitros, says “Rick is invaluable to Anna Marie’s Alliance. Just yesterday I pulled into the parking lot and he had filled out planters with beautiful flowers. Seeing him give high fives to the kids as he walks down the hallway always puts a smile on my face. We cannot do the wonderful work we do, without RSVP volunteers like Rick.”

Rick said, “Starting out, I thought helping out in daycare a few hours a week would be a nice, small way to give back to my community, I never envisioned how much I would be receiving in return.” He adds “at any one moment my role could be as a surrogate grandparent, comforter of boo-boos, father, brother, or just professional friend to a resident, besides being an errand runner, lawn care worker, security man, building maintenance man, occasional jokester, whatever comes up. But, always a role model. This is my most important role here [at Anna Marie’s Alliance].”

While Rick’s volunteer service has certainly impacted Anna Marie’s Alliance as an organization, Rick has reaped benefits from his service, too. Rick states “my growth as a person since starting here has been amazing, this an aspect of volunteer work I never considered.” He also shared, “volunteering at Anna Marie's Alliance has been the most rewarding thing, [other than my own family] that I have ever experienced. A huge thank you to everyone at Anna Marie’s for continuing to make me feel welcome and appreciated.”

Other than the emotional benefits Anna Marie’s offers to Rick through his volunteer service, there are also physical benefits he reaps as a result of his service. Rick shared he is disabled due to chronic arthritis in his feet, ankles and knees. This physical disability results in Rick wearing a leg brace and having to ice his joints multiple times per day. Volunteering gives Rick a reason to be active despite his pain. Rick says “even though my arthritis is getting worse I have no intention of cutting back on my volunteer work at Anna Marie's Alliance. Being with the kids and staff help me to forget about my pain for a while.”

In addition to recognition and gratitude from Anna Marie’s Alliance, last year Rick also received the MCBW (Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women) Inspire Award for Volunteer. “It was both an honor and humbling, I obviously love volunteering, it is so rewarding on a daily basis”, Rick said of winning the award.

If volunteering as a Youth Mentor interests you, please contact RSVP to learn more about organizations, such as Anna Marie’s Alliance, which are searching for volunteers. RSVP partners with many organizations throughout our community which provide mentors for local children.


RSVP Volunteer Builds Time Capsule for Community Celebration

As the United Way of Central Minnesota prepared for an event to celebrate their 50th anniversary an idea arose of building a time capsule box to be opened in 50 years, in 2068. This time capsule would hold cherished items from local partnering agencies and businesses to represent those who were connected to and supported the United Way of Central Minnesota in 2018. But who was going to make this time capsule? How was this going to be achieved? So many questions of how to make this idea “come to life” were pondered.

Ultimately, the United Way of Central Minnesota reached out to the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) (Lisa J. Braun, Director) inquiring if there were any RSVP volunteers who are skilled in woodworking and may be able to craft a time capsule. RSVP is an organization which engages men and women, age 55 or better, in meaningful volunteer service which strengthens the well-being of both self and community. The vision of RSVP is to be a bridge between those who need and those who give.

​ When the United Way of Central Minnesota contacted RSVP Program Coordinator, Jennifer Wucherer, she had just the volunteer in mind! Jennifer approached RSVP volunteer, Steve Flynn, to inquire if he would be interested in building this time capsule for the United Way. Jennifer thought of Steve as he is a former Industrial Arts teacher and has great skill in woodworking. Jennifer asked Steve if he would be willing to volunteer his time and talents to create the time capsule. Steve said “a project of this size is fun for me to do in my shop at home. They [the United Way of Central Minnesota] said I could use any materials I wanted and they would reimburse me. But, I decided if I am going to volunteer to do this project, I do not want to get paid and I wanted to use nice materials so the project was done right.” Steve ultimately spent approximately 15 hours creating the time capsule and generously donated the materials to the project.

​ Steve explained that the time capsule had to last for 50 years so he went to the lumber store and gathered some long-lasting materials. The 6 sides of the time capsule are made from solid oak and the trim is made from birch. Steve stained the oak a darker walnut color and left the birch color as is. The final product was stunning and Steve’s handy-work is greatly appreciated by the United Way of Central Minnesota. Mary Krippner, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator for the United Way of Central Minnesota, said “Steve did an amazing job on our time capsule for our annual Celebration! We absolutely love it!!”

​ When speaking about the project Steve stated “I did put my name on the bottom of the box. It is nice to have my work be a legacy for 50 years down the road and it is nice to give back. This community has been fantastic to myself and my family and here is my chance to give back.”

​ Steve went on to tell me of his connection and involvement with the United Way of Central Minnesota which stemmed back to many years ago. Steve’s previous employer had signed up their employees for the United Way of Central Minnesota’s annual “Day of Caring” and they were dispatched to volunteer at a home installing a wheel chair ramp for a family who had a child with a disability. Steve mentioned that around 30 volunteers show up on Day of caring to help this family, which was too many volunteers to engage in building one ramp. So, Steve helped the other volunteers find other tasks needing to be completed and he went to work on the ramp. Steve stated that the volunteers, who were there to build a ramp, ended up helping the family by also trimming shrubs, mowing the lawn, scrubbing the siding of the house and more! The family was so grateful for the work of the volunteers and Steve, too, felt it was very rewarding. As he finished building and installing the ramp, Steve noticed the ramp should really be painted, which was something he could do not pre-installation of the ramp. So, Steve took it upon himself to come back and paint the ramp on a different day. When Steve returned to paint the ramp, he brought his then 14-year-old daughter back to the home with him. Steve said it felt good to give back to the community in this way as well as to teach his daughter about giving back, as well. “It was a really neat experience. Like most volunteer opportunities, we [Steve and his daughter] gained more than we gave. It was a learning experience for my daughter, too.”

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