From mask-making crusaders to tater-traffic controllers, RSVP volunteers respond when needed

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Most of us recognize RSVP as a request to "please respond" to an invitation.

But the volunteers of THIS RSVP, also known as the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, don't need to be asked to respond when invited to help out during a crisis.

These go-getters typically volunteer at places like community food pantries and network with local agencies that need volunteers by recruiting, placing and recognizing those volunteers. And they have continued getting good things done, even in the face of COVID-19.

"We never fully stopped," says Nancy Olson, team lead of RSVP at LSSND. "Some of our host station partners continued providing services with modifications, and the volunteers adapted with appropriate safety precautions. Some volunteers who ceased volunteering for a time have come back, some are doing things from home (like making masks and providing tele-companionship) and the rest are patiently waiting to see what evolves for them!"

Here, Nancy shares a couple of stories that illustrate her RSVP volunteers' willingness to help others, regardless of the circumstances around them.

Angioplasty doesn't stop mask-making crusader

Meet Michele. She's a volunteer with the Grand Forks Salvation Army Food pantry. However, during the outbreak she utilized her sewing skills to serve the community.

Over a course of five weekends, sewing 12 hours each day, Michele made 700 masks that were distributed to the Salvation Army; Open Door Center's day services for adults with disabilities in Lisbon, N.D.; CHI Friendship in Grafton, and other persons in need within the community.

This effort was greatly needed due to the national PPE shortage. Even more impressive is that Michele accomplished this despite an angioplasty during the fourth week of her mask-making project!

Retired farmer directs tater-traffic to help offset food insecurity

John is a retired farmer and he likes to keep busy.  He became an RSVP volunteer shortly after he moved to Jamestown, and his wife appreciates his involvement.  He is involved with most of RSVP's Food Security host stations.  

This spring during COVID-19, RSVP was asked if we could accept a donation of 2,000 pounds of russet potatoes that were bagged in 5-pound bags. John met the truck and supervised the forklift operation at a local business that agreed to be the distribution point.

It turned out to be a pretty big job.

  It was expected to be a one-time donation and distribution, but it turned into three 2-ton donations!

That's six tons of spuds that went toward children, families and individuals who might have otherwise gone hungry. John and two other volunteers re-distributed this windfall on a weekly basis.  Local food pantries, schools, income-eligible families and individuals were all recipients of bags of potatoes. 

Way to go, John and Michele. You're proof that when the going gets tough, the tough keep giving.

Learn more about how to get involved with RSVP in your community by contact Nancy Olson at

By Nancy Olson and Tammy Swift

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