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Everyone Wins When Children Succeed in School | RSVP Volunteer Pen Pals Make a Difference!

November 3, 2020

When RSVP volunteers exchange "pen pal" letters with area elementary students, everyone wins! Students improve written communication skills; teachers creatively instruct language skills; volunteers share life experience, shared interests, and friendship.

The Northwest Iowa RSVP volunteer program invites anyone 55+ to join in making a positive impact on area students' success by becoming a pen pal. Pen Pal volunteers receive details regarding the Pen Pal programs specific to each county. Information provided includes guidelines and program specifics, a full schedule for writing letters, along with expected dates for the volunteer letters and the Pen Pal Event, and ideas on what to include in the letters.

Volunteer letters are collected by the Coordinator, who delivers the letters to each classroom at the same time, so no student is left out.  No postage is necessary for volunteers who take letters to the RSVP office or arrange to submit them via email. Postage is the responsibility of volunteers who choose to mail letters to the RSVP office.

The Pen Pal program is one of RSVP's longest-running community contributions. Volunteers are matched with 3rd or 4th graders for a predetermined schedule to exchange "pen pal" letters. Adults and students know each other only by name and whatever they learn from each other throughout the Pen Pal writing project.

At the end of the program, the volunteers meet their pen pals at a special event. The project is a way for the students to practice communication skills. For adults, especially those who want to volunteer with children but have limited time, it is a fantastic way to learn about life from a student perspective and share life experiences and stories. Due to restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pen pal "Meet and Greet" events will be different in 2021, but RSVP staff and teachers are looking at creative means of connecting all pen pals at the program conclusion.

Volunteers report boosts in happiness and feelings of social connectedness when communicating with a pen pal. With the Pen Pal program, which takes place during the winter and spring months, volunteers are pleased to make a positive difference in their own lives and the lives of students from the safety and comfort of their own homes.

To become an RSVP Pen Pal or to learn more about the Pen Pal program, please contact the RSVP Coordinator at your nearest Iowa Lakes Community College campus:

AmeriCorps, the federal agency and parent organization for the RSVP program, brings people together to tackle the country's most pressing challenges through national service and volunteering. AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Senior volunteers serve with organizations dedicated to the improvement of communities. AmeriCorps helps make service to others a cornerstone of our national culture. Learn more at AmeriCorps.gov.

Northwest Iowa RSVP has been meeting community needs in partnership with Iowa Lakes Community College since 1977.

For More Information:

RSVP Dawn Bernhard at 515-295-8522 or dbernhard@iowalakes.edu

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