Harvey County RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) has a defined mission — for volunteers to use their talents and skills to meet the needs of their communities.

Seeking a service project to do across the county to meet grant requirements, Harvey County RSVP took a very utilitarian approach — it asked the communities, specifically the first responders, what their needs were. Overwhelmingly, those groups came back and highlighted the need for blankets and gloves to give out in times of emergency (i.e. an auto collision, house fire, etc.).

“We always encourage being prepared for an emergency, but there are things that are tougher to prepare for, and there usually is little to no warning when an emergency situation happens,” said Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay. “It helps us to have items like blankets and gloves with us that hopefully can benefit our community should they need it.”

Last year, in response to those needs, Harvey County RSVP launched the 9/11 community project to collect emergency items to distribute to local first responders.

This year, the donation drive will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Newton Wal-Mart. Visitors can purchase emergency blankets or gloves from a display set up inside the store and drop them off at RSVP collection areas on-site, which RSVP coordinator Mary Adams said will be located at both entrances and manned by a handful of volunteers.

"It kind of gives everybody, all the first responders, the supplies needed for helping out — giving their help back out to the community," Adams said. "This is something that they thought about doing before, but they just didn't have the money in their budgets to do it, so this is basically a way to get something that they saw a need for taken care of."

Entering the second year of the project, Adams is hopeful for even more success with the emergency supply drive. In 2017, more than 300 items were collected as part of the drive. This year, Adams wants to see that number grow so those supplies can be distributed throughout the Harvey County communities (as they are divvied up based on population).

Along with the RSVP members collecting supplies, first responders will be located at Wal-Mart with their vehicles throughout the event to interact with the community and there are also K-9 demonstrations scheduled for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sept. 15.

First responders were extremely receptive to the project last year, according to Adams, and she looks forward to continuing the drive to keep helping and supporting the community. Not only does it help emergency personnel, but it helps regular citizens who may go through some difficult scenarios.

Though the 9/11 community project is a very specific way to get involved (with a call for just a handful of volunteers), that spirt of giving back is something Adams still very much encourages.

"Even if it's an hour some place," Adams said, "it helps out tremendously, so volunteerism is very important."