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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • County considers expanding program to include more volunteers

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  • ?Faced with the threat of more federal budget cuts, Harvey County RSVP Director Mary Spires decided now was a good time to start thinking outside the box.?Although the county’s RSVP program currently only coordinates volunteer opportunities for community members age 55 and older, Spires is proposing to expand the program to include volunteers of all ages and to seek additional funding.?“We want to make changes to the program, and this is a good time to do it,” she said. “... If you’re under 55, you can be a part of the program too.”?Harvey County RSVP receives financial support from the federally-funded Corporation for National and Community Service. Like many federal programs, the organization is being impacted by budget cuts, which in turn impacts the Harvey County RSVP, Spires said.?Under the new program, the county could continue to receive funding from CNCS and use that funding for the portion of the program for volunteers age 55 and older. The county would then seek additional funding, such as a grant from United Way, for other volunteers.?Spires is excited about opportunities for younger and older volunteers to work together through a mentoring program. She also is investigating the possibility of setting up an internship program with Bethel College.?Spires did not think expanding the program would create much extra work for the county, and she said new volunteers may even be able to help with the record keeping.?Dozens of organizations in Harvey County — including the Newton Public Library, the Salvation Army and the Harvey County Homeless Shelter — use RSVP volunteers. Anthony Swartzendruber, assistant administrator and finance director for the county, said RSVP could eventually become a resource for nonprofits in the county to find many types of volunteers.?County commission chair Marge Roberson said she liked the ideas Spires had come up with to deal with budget cuts, and she thought including younger volunteers was a good path for Harvey County RSVP to pursue.?“It sounds very, very positive,” Roberson said. “I think we’re going to have to go in a different direction.”
      
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