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AmeriCorps Awards Northwest Iowa RSVP Grant to Continue Community Service

January 29, 2021

AmeriCorps, the federal agency for service and volunteering, awards Northwest Iowa RSVP a $92,908 continuation grant supporting the volunteer efforts of over 300 people aged 55 and older in Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth, and Palo Alto counties. The partnership between Iowa Lakes Community College, the local sponsor of Northwest Iowa RSVP since 1977, AmeriCorps Seniors, and Northwest Iowa RSVP has matched over a thousand volunteers with community needs in meaningful service opportunities for 43 years.

“I was pleased to receive the announcement the program has been renewed for another three years,” said Valerie Newhouse, Iowa Lakes Community College President. “The RSVP program aligns with the college mission, and the volunteers continue to serve our communities in many different ways.”

Northwest Iowa RSVP volunteers continue to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 by adapting service models to continue safely serving the community. Some programs evolved to utilize technology, such as Virtual Reading to replace one-on-one reading sessions with school-aged children, virtual judging of high school performing arts and history events previously done in person, and virtual wellness checks.

The RSVP Pen Pal program, a literacy initiative that involves letter writing to third and fourth-grade students, allows volunteers to connect with students from home, fitting nicely within safety guidelines for students and volunteers. There are currently seven RSVP Pen Pal programs running in four northwest Iowa counties.

Over the last three years, 432 volunteers have served 70,609 hours supporting many community-based activities, including assistance with health care and long-term care facilities, thrift store support, nature centers, historical museums, and disaster response. Northwest Iowa RSVP focuses volunteer opportunities on K-12 Success programs like Pen Pals, Reading Buddies, tutoring, Virtual Reading and Literacy Partners; supporting food pantries and meal deliveries; and providing transportation to medical and other necessary appointments.

“Not only do RSVP volunteers make a difference in the lives of people in our communities; they also experience health, social interaction, and intergenerational benefits from their service!” explained Dawn Bernhard, Northwest Iowa RSVP Director.

Volunteers stay healthy and active through service, improving their own lives as they improve the lives of others. A growing body of research affirms the numerous mental and physical health benefits of volunteerism, including lower mortality rates, decreased rates of depression, and increased strength and energy.

Visit to learn more about the volunteer opportunities available and to obtain contact information for local coordinators.

For More Information:

Northwest Iowa RSVP Director Dawn Bernhard at 515-295-8522 or

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