OTTUMWA — United Way of Wapello County is looking for volunteers for their Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. RSVP Director Peggy Fisher said it is as important now as it has ever been.

While their need for volunteers is great, Fisher said her and United Way staff are not dismissing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and safety, especially for volunteers 55 and older. COVID-19 hasn’t put a damper on the number of volunteers either. Fisher said 120 volunteers are helping in various community projects from the community gardens to food pantries.

“It’s critical to have volunteers and measures in place,” she said. “Because a lot of the volunteer opportunities are outside — it’s a relatively safe opportunity for all ages and those who are 55 and older. Volunteers gave 150 pounds of produce and it went to food pantries, Blessings Soup Kitchen and an apartment complex in town.”

Fisher said they could use more volunteers to help plant produce. Milestones Area Agency on Aging also needs drivers for their meals on wheels program. “The issue they are having is there’s a huge waiting list because they don’t have enough drivers,” she said. “Seniors need to get their meals. Without drivers they can’t get their meals.”

Pen Pals for Kids, a popular volunteer opportunity, that allows elementary school students and senior citizens to write letters to one another has been placed on hold. COVID-19, of course, hindered the program from going forward. The question Fisher has now is: “what are the next steps?”

“We were really sad — seniors were going to meet their pen pals in person but couldn’t because of COVID-19,” she said. “The plan is to go forward and not sure how it will work because we’re dependent on what the school does with the students.”

Fisher is hoping interest will peak. Last year more than 60 seniors wrote to 70 students. Writing letters, she said, “is an amazing opportunity to put a smile on a senior’s face.”

“Writing to people in assisted living facilities might encourage them to stay positive, not lose hope,” she said. “We will continue to need volunteers and we so so appreciate our current volunteers.”

For more information about the RSVP Program contact Peggy Fisher at p.fisher@wapellocouw.org.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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