RSVP in Action
RSVP Volunteer Builds Time Capsule for Community Celebration
As the United Way of Central Minnesota prepared for an event to celebrate their 50th anniversary an idea arose of building a time capsule box to be opened in 50 years, in 2068. This time capsule would hold cherished items from local partnering agencies and businesses to represent those who were connected to and supported the United Way of Central Minnesota in 2018. But who was going to make this time capsule? How was this going to be achieved? So many questions of how to make this idea “come to life” were pondered.
Ultimately, the United Way of Central Minnesota reached out to the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) (Lisa J. Braun, Director) inquiring if there were any RSVP volunteers who are skilled in woodworking and may be able to craft a time capsule. RSVP is an organization which engages men and women, age 55 or better, in meaningful volunteer service which strengthens the well-being of both self and community. The vision of RSVP is to be a bridge between those who need and those who give.
When the United Way of Central Minnesota contacted RSVP Program Coordinator, Jennifer Wucherer, she had just the volunteer in mind! Jennifer approached RSVP volunteer, Steve Flynn, to inquire if he would be interested in building this time capsule for the United Way. Jennifer thought of Steve as he is a former Industrial Arts teacher and has great skill in woodworking. Jennifer asked Steve if he would be willing to volunteer his time and talents to create the time capsule. Steve said “a project of this size is fun for me to do in my shop at home. They [the United Way of Central Minnesota] said I could use any materials I wanted and they would reimburse me. But, I decided if I am going to volunteer to do this project, I do not want to get paid and I wanted to use nice materials so the project was done right.” Steve ultimately spent approximately 15 hours creating the time capsule and generously donated the materials to the project.
Steve explained that the time capsule had to last for 50 years so he went to the lumber store and gathered some long-lasting materials. The 6 sides of the time capsule are made from solid oak and the trim is made from birch. Steve stained the oak a darker walnut color and left the birch color as is. The final product was stunning and Steve’s handy-work is greatly appreciated by the United Way of Central Minnesota. Mary Krippner, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator for the United Way of Central Minnesota, said “Steve did an amazing job on our time capsule for our annual Celebration! We absolutely love it!!”
When speaking about the project Steve stated “I did put my name on the bottom of the box. It is nice to have my work be a legacy for 50 years down the road and it is nice to give back. This community has been fantastic to myself and my family and here is my chance to give back.”
Steve went on to tell me of his connection and involvement with the United Way of Central Minnesota which stemmed back to many years ago. Steve’s previous employer had signed up their employees for the United Way of Central Minnesota’s annual “Day of Caring” and they were dispatched to volunteer at a home installing a wheel chair ramp for a family who had a child with a disability. Steve mentioned that around 30 volunteers show up on Day of caring to help this family, which was too many volunteers to engage in building one ramp. So, Steve helped the other volunteers find other tasks needing to be completed and he went to work on the ramp. Steve stated that the volunteers, who were there to build a ramp, ended up helping the family by also trimming shrubs, mowing the lawn, scrubbing the siding of the house and more! The family was so grateful for the work of the volunteers and Steve, too, felt it was very rewarding. As he finished building and installing the ramp, Steve noticed the ramp should really be painted, which was something he could do not pre-installation of the ramp. So, Steve took it upon himself to come back and paint the ramp on a different day. When Steve returned to paint the ramp, he brought his then 14-year-old daughter back to the home with him. Steve said it felt good to give back to the community in this way as well as to teach his daughter about giving back, as well. “It was a really neat experience. Like most volunteer opportunities, we [Steve and his daughter] gained more than we gave. It was a learning experience for my daughter, too.”
RSVP Volunteers Deliver Meals and Friendships
According to the National Meals on Wheels website (www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org) there are 10.2 million seniors nationwide who are struggling with hunger, 15.7 million seniors nationwide who are isolated or living alone and there are 18.7 million seniors nationwide who are living in or near poverty. One program addressing these issues is the Meals on Wheels Program.
Currently in Minnesota, there are 12,165 seniors who receive Meals on Wheels. You might wonder, “how do the meals get to seniors throughout our community?” Locally, meals are delivered by volunteers. Many of the volunteers delivering meals in Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties volunteer through the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) (Lisa J. Braun, Director). In 2016, 81 RSVP volunteers delivered meals to 641 older adults! This amounts to 2,359.50 hours of service to our community’s seniors!
RSVP volunteer, Denny Hove, has been delivering Meals on Wheels throughout the Elk River area for over four years. Denny volunteers to deliver meals 3-4 days per week, delivering up to 20 meals per day to older adults in our community!
Denny’s volunteer journey started when he offered to deliver meals through his church. When the need arose for more volunteers to deliver meals throughout the area he offered to take on more routes and he joined RSVP as a way to get connected to this opportunity. Denny shared “I really enjoy delivering Meals on Wheels. I wanted to get out into the community and I continue [to volunteer] because the people receiving the meals are very thankful for them.” Denny observes that a lot clients who he delivers meals to often don’t see anyone else, other than him, on a typical day. “It’s not just me delivering a meal, it’s really a health check, too. I always try to see the person who I am delivering to so I know they are okay. I visit with them and get going on my way.”
One of Denny’s favorite memories from volunteering involves a gentleman who he often delivers meals to. Denny states this gentleman does not have a lot of people to talk to and if it weren’t for him receiving Meals on Wheels, the only person he would see on a regular basis is a health nurse who visits a few times per week. Denny strategically saves this client for last delivery on his route so the two men can spend some time visiting and “bantering” with each other, as he described it. Denny laughed and shared a story from a few years back when he was delivering a roast beef meal to the client. Denny told the gentleman “you’re lucky I didn’t have a fork and knife in my car or I would have ate your meal because it smells so good.” The gentleman laughed and gave him a hard time about how delicious the meal was going to be. The next time roast beef was being served Denny requested the kitchen to make a plate of just side vegetables. Denny delivered the side vegetables to the gentleman and told him he had been hungry on his route and ate the roast beef. The two laughed as Denny handed the client the rest of his meal and left thinking the joke was over. However, the client had other plans. About two weeks went by and Denny was delivering a meal when the gentleman handed him a bag of beef jerky. Denny inquired what this was all about. The client slyly told him, “here is the roast beef you delivered a few weeks ago, I thought you may want it.” The two shared a laugh and Denny thought this was pretty clever. Had this gentleman not been a Meals on Wheels recipient he would not have anyone to share these amusing jokes and laughs with.
As you can see, RSVP volunteers greatly impact the lives of so many individuals just like the gentleman who Denny delivers meals to. Denny expressed “it [volunteering to deliver meals] gets me out of bed and gets me going every day.” Denny also said while he reaps the benefit from volunteering, the clients who he delivers to definitely reap many benefits as well. This is definitely true as studies have shown that nine out of ten Meals on Wheels recipients feel safer and secure in their home as a result of the Meals on Wheels program.