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Volunteer organization targeting critical community needs

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Tuesday, April 9 is Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service, honoring organizations and individuals who volunteer in our communities. A key volunteer development organization in our region, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, has undergone quite a transformation since Allen Dietz took over as executive director last August, switching from an approach of trying to meet a wide range of needs to one of strategically targeting critical community issues.

Trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for a less-than-successful organization, whether it's a nonprofit or a business.

RSVP, which serves six counties in North Central Washington, is a clearinghouse that matches volunteers with opportunities at nonprofits. The primary focus today is with food and hunger programs, with about 65 percent of the volunteers serving those needs across Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan Adams and Lincoln counties. Previously, food programs accounted for only 20 percent of the volunteers.

Other areas of focus include providing volunteers for schools, helping seniors stay independent, supporting English as a Second Language (ESL) programs and assisting museums in preserving our cultural history.

Dietz, a former consultant who specialized in helping organizations determine their effectiveness, has a great perspective on his work. What RSVP does is "tie people into a community and making them feel like they are a part of things," he said. "My definition of a community is people coming together, not people leading separate lives living in the same physical space," he continued.

RSVP has more than 300 volunteers throughout the region and are looking for more individuals. One of the biggest needs in the Wenatchee Valley, Dietz said, is at the Adult Respite program which provides relief for those who are caring for individuals in their homes.

Dietz pointed out that people who stay active and involved with volunteering tend to live longer and are happier, so people can feel good about helping their community and themselves. A volunteer commitment could be for as few as three hours a month. A number of their volunteers are retirees but they also have quite a few who are still working but looking to give back. Sometimes, volunteers use the talents they honed over a lifetime while others find opportunities to do something completely different.

You can check out RSVP's programs on their website, www.rsvpncw.org. Their offices are located in the second floor of The World building at 14 N. Mission St. If you'd like to see my video interview with Dietz, please log onto wenatcheeworld.com and click on videos.

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