RSVP in Action
RSVP Volunteers Commit Nearly 6,500 Hours to the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
The Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) in Sherburne County, Minnesota is a wildlife conservation jewel in the service area of the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). SNWR is home a variety of habitats, including the highly unique and globally rare oak savanna. The Refuge is home to awe inspiring animals of flight, such as bald eagles, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, and monarch butterflies. The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Over 30,000 acres are managed not only to for the wildlife, but also to provide outdoor recreation and education to the 100,000 annual visitors.
Since the year 2000, 37 RSVP volunteers have invested nearly 6,500 hours to assist the SNWR to meet its mission. Currently three key RSVP volunteers work not only with outdoor projects on the land at the refuge, but also serve extensively in the Eagle’s Nest Nature Store in the long-planned, newly-constructed Oak Savanna Learning Center. Diane Stroschein, Darlene Antinozzi and Sharon Kolstad fully share in the refuge mission. Carrying out that mission has brought them joy in their service.
When asked about the value of what they do at the refuge and the personal benefits they enjoy because of their contributions, all three volunteers mentioned the myriad relationships that are experienced through their service. The network of interpersonal exchanges include those among volunteers, with staff, with students and with both local and international refuge visitors. Through these relationships a bond is formed. Darlene expressed it this way: “We all share the same love of the outdoors and how we can keep it in its best condition for future generations”.
All three also agreed that the educational opportunities available at the refuge have not only educated them about conservation, but have empowered them to share the message with others they encounter on the refuge. Diane feels especially passionate about the value to the youngest visitors: “I especially love seeing the children soak up their experiences and time at the refuge. They will be the stewards of our environment and if we do not teach them the value of the outdoors, future generations will lose something very valuable. Knowledge is key and we can help do that.”
Ultimately, it is only through the continual appreciation and promotion of sound conservation practices carried out a little at a time by many people like these three RSVP volunteers, and the dedicated staff with which they serve, that we can hope to preserve natural diversity and beauty for others to enjoy far into the future!
Volunteers: Instilling Positive Attitudes in Local Schools
In a report published by the School Mental Health Project at UCLA evidence is testified proving volunteers can “be significant resources in helping create a supportive and welcoming environment at schools and facilitating students’ behavior and performance. As positive role models and student motivators, volunteers are viewing as contributing to better school attendance, improved grades and test scores, matriculation, less misbehavior, better social skills, staying in school, graduating and going on to college.” In this same report, evidence is noted that when adult volunteers are present in the schools, students see adults taking school and education seriously resulting in students obtaining a positive attitudes towards school.
Many volunteers through the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) serve in a variety of capacities throughout local school districts.
One of these volunteers is Tim Radunz who definitely promotes a positive attitude in the school. Whether Tim is tutoring in the classroom, sending kids home on a positive note via bus duty or simply correcting student’s papers he instills a positive learning experience for all students. This fall will mark the start of Tim’s fourth year as a volunteer at Kennedy Elementary School in St. Joseph where he has served over 3,100 hours in multiple fourth grade classrooms. During the school year, Tim spends all day, every day offering a helping hand to students. Tim said he enjoys working with the kids individually and as a group and he says “I love the satisfaction of seeing the kids when the lights go on in their eyes and they just get the idea.” When asking Tim his favorite part about volunteering he said he enjoys joking with the students as much as he enjoys working with them on scholarly topics. Tim stated he continues to volunteer because he enjoys creating the connections with the students. “I have made many bonds with children in the classroom that I will never, ever forget” Tim said.
St. Cloud Area School District 742 loves having Tim in the classroom as much as he loves being there. The principal at Kennedy Elementary in St. Joseph, Laurie Putnam, says “"Tim serves full time in a fourth grade classroom. He is integral to supporting the achievement of students in not only that room but of all fourth grade students. He supports math and literacy skill development by doing pull-out small groups during station time and by providing one-to-one support in the classroom. He also mentors students by providing a kind smile and a listening ear. Tim will join students for lunches and recess and supports supervision efforts at the bus chute.”
Last school year the district recognized Tim as an outstanding volunteer through their “Partners in Education” award ceremony held at Tech High School in April 2016. The district says “this event recognizes individuals and organizations that illuminate the mission of District 742 and support schools and students.” Tim was honored to be nominated and receive the award and says “I don’t volunteer for the accolades, I do it because I like it. However, it does feel good to be appreciated.”
There are many RSVP volunteers who join Tim in serving in local schools. During the 2015-2016 school year there were 173 RSVP volunteers who served 6,476 in our area schools! The Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program would like to thank these volunteers for their passion and dedication to playing a large role in shaping both the future of children in the area as well as the future of our community.
The St. Cloud Area School District #742 truly values the relationship which continues to grow with RSVP. RSVP volunteers assist with a variety of tasks throughout the St. Cloud Area Schools ranging from mentoring students in the classroom to helping with one-time community events hosted by the school district.
The Volunteer Specialist for St. Cloud Area Schools, Sonia Dickrell, stated “RSVP has been an outstanding community partner of St. Cloud Area School District for years. As an organization they support our efforts to meet our mission by providing recruitment and placement of one time and ongoing volunteers in our schools and programs.” Sonia also raved about RSVP volunteers and their skills saying “RSVP volunteers are known to be qualified, passionate and reliable to our staff. The positive energy and enthusiasm they [RSVP volunteers] bring every day is a joy for teachers, staff and students. RSVP volunteers who serve in the classrooms to support academics quickly become “Grandparents” of the room. The positive adult presence is valuable for creating community and supporting student growth and achievement.”
RSVP is currently recruiting volunteers to lend a hand in many local classrooms for the 2016-2017 school year. If you are ages 55 or better and you are interested in making a difference in your community schools please call the RSVP office at (320)255-7295 to learn more.