The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Program to expand to volunteers of all ages

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  • According to Mary Spires, Harvey County’s RSVP director, her organization isn’t changing its mission — it’s just expanding it. Harvey County Commissioners authorized Spires to move forward with a plan to expand the organization’s services to younger volunteers. The organization previously had coordinated volunteer opportunities only for those 55 and older, but now it will serve as a centralized clearinghouse for volunteers of all ages in the county. “What this enables us to do is encourage people to continue to volunteer in those areas that benefit the community,” said John Waltner, county administrator. The county considered the expansion partly due to changes within the Corporation for National and Community Service, which provides funding to the Harvey County RSVP. Paperwork and documentation for volunteers eat up RSVP time and resources, and CNCS has been reducing its grant funding, officials said. New CNCS requirements also will mean certain places where RSVP volunteers now serve — such as nursing care facilities, Newton Medical Center and senior centers’ congregate meals — no longer will be counted in CNCS performance measures. Expanding the program may reduce Harvey County’s need to rely on CNCS. Spires believes the program will be successful in attracting younger volunteers. With no advertisement or outreach to promote the program, about 15 people have contacted RSVP in the past four months, including two in their 20s and 30s; three in high school; and the rest in their 40s and 50s. Instead of turning them away, RSVP now will be able to help them find volunteering opportunities. Spires also believes there will be plenty of volunteer of opportunities to go around. Although RSVP volunteers worked more than 77,000 hours last year, Spires said some organizations, such as the health department and the library, still have unmet needs. Spires plans on seeking additional grant opportunities to support the inclusion of younger volunteers. The goal for the program is to recruit 20 new volunteers under 65 by this December, and 40 long-term volunteers under 55 by next December. Spires believes RSVP will continue to provide an important service for the county. Right now, for every dollar spent by the Harvey County RSVP program, $14.38 is given back to the community. The state average is $3.61. “We have significantly more volunteers, and significantly more volunteer hours,” she said.
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