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Learn How Our Greater MN Members Are Responding to Volunteers During COVID

United Way of Central MN

Volunteerism has changed dramatically in Central Minnesota. Many organizations have eliminated or suspended their volunteer program or are slowly bringing volunteers back in a different way. The programs are smaller and not as interactive to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, a lot of volunteers are leaving their positions due to the unknown and increased concerns surrounding COVID-19. I’m impressed how many have been creative as we find our “new” normal. Remote opportunities have kept volunteers engaged with organizations by sewing masks, tying blankets, building planter boxes for long term care facilities, assembling math kits for youth, running drives and more! Our community is resilient and will continue to be innovative to keep volunteers engaged in a meaningful way.

Mary Krippner
Director of Volunteer Engagement
United Way of Central Minnesota
921 1st Street North, Suite 200 St. Cloud, MN 56303

While many within the Red River Valley have been staying safe at home during the current pandemic, RSVP volunteers have continued to serve those most in need of ongoing services and supports.

Early in the pandemic, RSVP secured grants from NW MN Foundation and NW Regional Sustainable Development Partnership to provide 70 7-Day Meal Kits to rural NW MN homebound seniors. Partnering with rural grocers in our 7 county region, healthy, non-perishable food items were boxed and delivered by 20 RSVP volunteers during Minnesota’s Stay at Home directive.

Nearly all pre-COVID Grocery to Go volunteers continued shopping with or for their health compromised clients. In fact, RSVP received five new referrals since the pandemic began, all of whom have been matched with volunteers.

Food Shelf and Home Delivered Meal volunteers maintained and/or modified services to keep their communities well provided for. During the pandemic, Karlstad Senior Meals program staff and volunteers are preparing, packaging and delivering 80 meals almost daily to area seniors! Many food shelves are seeing an increase in usage and are meeting those food security needs.

Other volunteers have found a variety of new ways to make a difference: sewing masks (one Pennington County volunteer has sewn and donated more than 2,000!); checking in on isolated seniors; sharing copies of RSVP produced monthly Wellness Way flyer.

Now more than ever, RSVP volunteers are meeting community and individual needs with compassion and commitment! 🙂  

Tammy Frohlich
Program Director
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
University of Minnesota
Crookston, MN

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
Volunteerism during COVID-19
Counties: Becker, Clearwater, Hubbard, Mahnomen Otter Tail, Todd, Wadena, Wilkin

All Meals on Wheels sites have kept operating during COVID-19. They use precautions with face masks, social distance, and sanitizing. The congregate dining is closed but they do have curbside pickup available.

All Food Shelves continue to operate with added precautions. Face masks, social distance and sanitizing. There are many precautions in place to stay as safe as possible including window delivery at the food shelf, delivery to client’s car in the parking lot, some offered home delivery. If they allow clients to enter, then only one at a time. There is emergency food available, option to visit a second time in one month if needed.

Transportation sites had a limited number of drivers available at the beginning of COVID-19 in which the rides were for regular dialysis appointments, treatment appointments. Some sites did not receive any requests, others were delivering services such as groceries or medications but not transporting clients. More recently the drivers are starting to transport again with precautions, face masks, sanitizing vehicle between clients, client rides in back seat for social distance.

Thrift shops were closed for a while and then slowly started to reopen with limited number of volunteers and using precautions with face masks, social distance and sanitizing.

Museums have been closed for the safety of the volunteers. Some volunteers did help with keeping up the grounds and upkeep of the building but no group tours.

Exercise Groups had to stop meeting due to the centers being closed. Recently two of the groups have started meeting again, one group meets outside in the park, social distance, face masks, use their own weights and do not share. The other group meets inside a room large enough for social distance, wear face masks, sanitize everything when done, do not share weights, and bring their own water.

Tax Aid Volunteers were busy with the extended tax season since they had to stop working during the beginning of COVID-19. The clients would drop off their information in the drop box outside of our office. The tax volunteers would then complete the paperwork. When done, a phone call was placed to the client and the client would pick up the completed packet outside the building. Face masks, sanitizing, and distance precautions were followed.

One of our Wildlife Refuge sites is compromising the loss, of in-person nature activities with elementary children, by having volunteers go online and do Facebook Live videos of them reading a book or teaching a new nature activity.

Cynthia McDonough
RSVP Director
MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership, Inc.
1125 West River Road
PO Box 747
Detroit Lakes, MN 56502