Retired Senior Volunteers say they love the ‘job’

Mark Gustafson, volunteer coordinator for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, had a busy day Wednesday.

Besides greeting potential volunteers and visiting with some of those already signed up at an open house in their offices at Citizen Central, he also spent some time setting an example.

“Today, I went to Feelhaver Elementary to read to the elementary kids for half an hour,” Gustafson said.

Helping out at area schools is just one of many opportunities for service open to the volunteers. The RSVP program connects volunteers ages 55 and over with places and agencies they can serve.

Some can even be done from home; an example is the Pen Pal program that partners a volunteer with a fourth- or fifth-grade student.

“It helps them improve their writing skills,” he said. “They write and send one letter a month.”

Other opportunities include volunteering at the Opportunity Village Thrift Store. He said RSVP can work with non-profits, schools and public nonprofit health organizations.

At the open house, Floyd Herum, of Fort Dodge, described himself as an “agricultural engineer who became a university professor.” Now retired, he owns a 30-acre tree farm.

His mission Wednesday was simple.

“I’m here asking how I can help,” he said.

One area where he’s already done some work is the Friendship International program, in partnership with Iowa Central Community College. It allows him to use his experience traveling to help exchange students get an understanding of the culture in their new temporary home.

“I tell them, ” he said, “just relax, you’ll learn.”

Roy Chase, of Fort Dodge, has been volunteering for about a decade through the RSVP program.

He was a pen pal last year with a student from the area. The students and the volunteers get to meet at the end of the year during a picnic held at Oleson Park.

“You’re the guy that wrote these?” the student asked.

Chase said he enjoyed being able to provide a positive role model for a student.

He also enjoys serving on the RSVP Advisory Council.

“I give them advice – on the house,” he joked.

Lillie Mae Clausen, of Fort Dodge, is a retired teacher and counselor. She’s waiting for her first assignment and appreciates being able to volunteer as much, or as a little, as her free time allows.

“If I wanted a full-time job I’d still be working,” she said.

Gail Scott, of Fort Dodge, finds doing volunteer work at various projects both on her own and through RSVP to be quite rewarding.

“They’re always so glad to see you,” she said. “I learn as much from them as they do from me.”

Roy Chase and Floyd Herum also find that keeping active helps.

“Busy people live longer,” Chase said.

“Happy people live longer too,” Herum added.

To volunteer, RSVP can be reached at 573-3477.