In-home volunteers looking for more ways to help community organizations

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

JANESVILLE—Three women chatted softly as they kept busy at a table.

A man and woman worked silently at a nearby table in the Community Room at Garden Court Apartments in downtown Janesville.

The in-home volunteers with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Rock County spent hours stuffing Rock County Youth2Youth informational materials into nearly 600 plastic bags for distribution to second- through eighth-grade students in Rock County schools.

Youth2Youth, which strives to create drug-free communities, distributes 7,000 educational packets each school year, said Debbie Fischer, director.

But it wouldn't happen without help from retired volunteers because Youth2Youth doesn't have the staff or money to get the job done. Teens who helped at the Beloit Youth2Youth office after school couldn't keep up with the demand for packets, Fischer said.

"We're educating kids who share this educational information with their families. Last year 957 surveys were returned from these packets sent home," Fischer said.

Fischer turned to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program for help.

RSVP has two in-home volunteer groups: Garden Court Apartments in Janesville and Village East in Beloit.

The Janesville group meets one or two days a week plus whenever asked for help. The Beloit group meets the second Tuesday of the month, said Vivian Palombi, RSVP community referrals coordinator and office manager.

They work on Youth2Youth packets throughout the school year in addition to stamping and mailing for other nonprofit, educational, medical or government groups, she said.

RSVP is seeking more projects for volunteers, who would like to be busier.

"We're always looking for new projects that benefit the agencies who save staff time and money and the volunteers who can't get out in the community to volunteer because they don't have transportation or have physical limitations," Palombi said.

Janesville volunteers Louise Elliott and Diane Pike are willing to volunteer as much as possible.

Elliott said being an RSVP in-home volunteer gives her something to do.

"I really enjoy everything about it," she said as she stuffed stacks of orange plastic bags.

Pike agreed.

"I like doing stuff like this and hope the ones who need help with this issue get this information," she said.

The former United Way and Red Cross volunteer also enjoys the camaraderie.

"I don't mind working by myself, but to do this with others you get more done," Pike said.

Fischer praised the volunteers she described as hidden gems.

"They're saving us time and giving us the outcome we need to educate people," she said.

RSVP's in-home volunteers also help Youth2Youth meet the in-kind donation requirements of federal government grants, Fischer said.

"This helps tremendously."

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