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Volunteers Unite

Many believe that a meaningful life is not complete without the fulfillment that comes from helping others.

If you're ready to take your commitment to the community to the next level, while meeting new people and gaining new experiences, RSVP 55+ is for you!

  • Meet other active adults and stay engaged in the community
  • Get to know people in the community you might not otherwise meet
  • Get help finding volunteer opportunities that suit your interests and schedule
  • Keep updated on volunteer events and other news in a monthly newsletter
  • Get reimbursed for your mileage
  • Make an impact on local nonprofits and the central Iowa community

 The 55+ Initiative of United Way of Central Iowa is a partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

Questions? Contact Lynne Melssen, RSVP 55+ Director, at lynne.melssen@unitedwaydm.org.

 

To get more information about
RSVP 55+, please fill out the form below. 


Volunteer Opportunities

Book Buddy

Book Buddy logo.pngHundreds of Central Iowa 4-year-olds are at risk of not gaining the skills needed to start kindergarten, and research shows children who start behind, stay behind. Book Buddy reaches children in the critical year before kindergarten, helping them build the pre-reading skills they need for a strong start in school. For 40 minutes a week, volunteers read one-on-one with four-year-old students at early childhood centers in Des Moines.  

Power Read

Power Read Logo.pngAlmost 1 in 5 fourth-grade students in central Iowa read below grade level. Power Read is a literacy and mentoring program that pairs volunteers and elementary school students to read together on a weekly basis. Everybody Wins! Iowa and United Way of Central Iowa are partnering to provide reading and mentoring experiences to children who might not have one-on-one attention from an adult. Power Read’s ultimate goal? To increase children’s chances of success in school and in life.

Graduation Walk - October 19, 2019

GraduationWalk Logo.pngIn one Saturday morning, you can help a young person make the most important decision of his or her life: to graduate from high school.

You'll be paired with a Des Moines Public Schools staff member to visit the homes of students at risk of dropping out of school. You’ll connect personally with the student and their family, share powerful information about career outcomes for dropouts, and help return them to the path that leads toward graduation.

Learn More About GRADUATION WALK

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You can help local low-income families by volunteering to provide free income tax preparation. 

As a VITA volunteer you will be provided with the training and materials you need to become IRS certified. Volunteer greeters and Spanish translators are also needed to welcome taxpayers and make sure they have the paperwork they need.

Transportation

Medical appointments, dental visits, trips to the pharmacy or grocery store - these are all challenges for seniors and adults with disabilities who don’t have access to transportation. Using your vehicle, volunteers provide transportation and conversation to those in need. Opportunities include Grimes and Urbandale.

 

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"The purpose of our lives is to live beyond ourselves and to reach back and pull someone else along.

 

It's so intrisicially rewarding to know you have impacted a life.

 

Volunteerism is critical to us occupying this world that we live in.

 

Our time is supposed to be shared with others."

 

- Renee Hardman,

4-year Book Buddy volunteer

Don't see what you want?

There are many more opportunities for you to get involved as part of RSVP. Fill out the form above and select "Other" to get in contact with the director, who can point you toward opportunities that fit your interests.

In the meantime, you can check out our volunteer database for immediate and long-term volunteer choices.

Volunteer Opportunities


Meet our Volunteers

Gina Smith-McMillen 

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Having participated in the United Way campaign for years, Gina Smith-McMillen welcomed the invitation to see those dollars at work through the 55+ Initiative at United Way. Now in her third year as a Book Buddy at Wonder Years, she says watching the children grow over the course of the program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her lifetime.

Though several faces come to mind as Gina recalls her Book Buddies, Olivia stands out. Olivia clung to the teacher's leg on the first day, and for several weeks, kept her head down and didn't talk much. Then one day, when Gina showed up to read, they became the best of friends. Olivia was talking and smiling from that day forward.

Many hours in Gina's week are spent in the world of video—managing sales accounts for Ingram Entertainment—but her favorite half hour is devoted to simple books. The excitement in the students' eyes is the highlight of her week. Though retirement is still years off for her, she looks forward to the day she has more time to give back to the community.

Nancy Heuer 

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As a recent retiree, Nancy has come full circle to her early passion for education in her role as a Book Buddy volunteer. Her decision to volunteer was prompted by an invitation from members of her book club. Beyond that was her desire to give back in appreciation for the support she and her husband, Tom, received when their son, Dylan, lost his hearing due to meningitis at 7 months old.

With resources from United Way-funded agencies and Des Moines Public Schools, they mastered new ways of parenting and teaching, including reading a book and simultaneously using sign language. Dylan successfully navigated his way to earn several degrees and accept his current job as a sports photography editor for Major League Baseball because teachers, mentors and his parents saw his potential. We think Dylan would have smiled to see Nancy reading recently, using sign language for "more" to reengage students who were distracted during the book More, More, More Says the Baby. And it worked!