Volunteer program gets new wings
Volunteer Connection, a volunteer program that provides services to food pantries, schools, libraries, blood drives and other outlets, is seeking volunteers of all ages as well as potential board members, especially those with knowledge of nonprofits and securing grants.
Call director Patti O'Brien at (262) 472-9632 to help or for more information.
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Walworth County has been reborn.
The program, which has a roster of about 400 volunteers who give more than 40,000 hours a year in services throughout the county, this summer lost its sponsorship and its funding.
But the community rallied around the almost 40-year-old group and encouraged it to take matters into its own hands.
The Walworth County Board and the United Way of Walworth County offered more than $6,000 in startup funds, and the group has reformed and applied for nonprofit status as Volunteer Connection.
"We got so much support from the community," said Patti O'Brien, director of the program. "So many places were like, ‘What are we going to do without those volunteers?' They depend on us for volunteers for so many things."
The group, which was never incorporated as a standalone nonprofit agency, has been on a rollercoaster ride for a couple years.
Walworth County sponsored RSVP of Walworth County for almost 30 years until 2000, when the American Red Cross chapter serving Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties took over the local program. But the Red Cross chapter folded in 2008, leaving the program without a home office, without a sponsor organization and without the requirements to qualify for a federal grant that provides about 90 percent of its funding.
RSVP of Rock County offered to help, but the group pulled back this summer because of the economic climate.
"We've had a hard enough time keeping our program viable … and so we felt that the sponsorship in Walworth County had to end because they actually have less resources there than we have here," said Robert Harlow, executive director of the Rock County program.
RSVP of Walworth County again was without a sponsor and without an opportunity to apply for the federal grant.
Volunteer Connection soon will be a standalone nonprofit organization and no longer will be affiliated with the RSVP program or the related federal grant.
O'Brien is energized about the future of the new program, which now is open to volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, not just retirees and seniors.
She said about 95 percent of the volunteers are sticking with the program and several more have signed up to help deliver Meals on Wheels, stock shelves at food pantries and work at libraries and schools, among other things.
"They have big hearts. They're going to continue to do what they already do—even if someone isn't organizing them," she said. "We'll get going in the right direction. We have to. We do great things for the community."
O'Brien said Volunteer Connection will need to secure between $60,000 and $65,000 in funding to operate each year. She said the group may start applying for grants as soon as it is officially incorporated.