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RSVP helps seniors find a niche

Since the 1970s, seniors in the Wadena area have been getting help from an organization that places them in volunteer positions around the county and aids them in staying a part of the community. It's called RSVP, or the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, one of three programs under the federal Senior Corps. Since July, RSVP in Wadena County has been represented by Carrie Hitchcock of the Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership, a nonprofit organization that sponsors RVSP in the west central area of Minnesota. Hitchcock says although local interest in the program has been strong, RSVP is still looking for volunteers 55 and older to take part.

"I get the sense that there's a really strong senior community here," Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock said some of the popular volunteer sites in Wadena include the Wadena Food Shelf, Wadena County Historical Society and Lakewood Care Center.

Feedback from the participants in the program has been overwhelmingly positive, Hitchcock said.

"Everyone is very involved with what they're doing. They love being able to help," she said.

Karen Lenius, Senior Programs director for Mahube-Otwa, said the need both for volunteers and nonprofits at which to place them never completely goes away.

"There's always some other place that could use a volunteer, or there's always additional people that could enroll as volunteers," she said.

Lenius said the tangible perks of volunteering with RSVP include seeing their volunteer hours counted among national totals, mileage reimbursement and extra insurance opportunities to help protect volunteers while on the job. There are, of course, intangible benefits as well.

"Volunteering can actually help the volunteers feel like they're continuing to contribute to their community and to society in a very positive way," Lenius said. "It fills a void that sometimes is created when you stop working."

Amy Dallmann, also of Mahube-Otwa, said research showed those who volunteer tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health.

"They have a social outlet, they're out and about in the community, and that keeps them healthier," she said.

Those wishing to volunteer with RSVP are encouraged to contact Carrie Hitchcock at 218-632-3600 or visit the Mahube-Otwa office in Wadena at 311 S Jefferson St.