Pen Pal volunteer program connects seniors to students

The Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. There are 17 state service commissions administering VGF grants to expand volunteer infrastructure by supporting volunteer management practices that increase volunteer recruitment and retention. Learn more at www.statecommissions.org. The following is a story from Serve Washington’s Volunteer Generation Fund: 

rose funk-2The Volunteer Generation FundMany volunteer centers match volunteer tutors and readers with students, which usually means that the volunteer must be available during the school day or other pre-sent hours.  But there are many other volunteers who either find it hard to travel or who’s schedules aren’t as flexible who would love to help a young student.

Volunteer Connections, the all-ages volunteer center at the Human Services Council in Clark County, solves the problem with their Pen Pal program, in which volunteers are paired with a single student to exchange letters once a month.  The adults’ letters are written on their own schedule, and can be mailed or emailed into the volunteer center. There a volunteer coordinator reviews and prints the letter for delivery to the classroom. Usually the teacher devotes a class period to drafting the replies, which are again funneled through the volunteer center back to the Pen Pal.

Rose Funk has been a Pen Pal for 22 years, and recently wrote of her experience in an article in the Focus Fifty Plus quarterly supplement to The Vancouver Columbian. Pen Pal was previously primarily a program of RSVP, but has moved out of that sponsorship to Volunteer Generation Fund funding and reporting. Volunteer Generation Fund is a grant from Serve Washington to expand volunteer infrastructure by supporting volunteer management practices that increase volunteer recruitment and retention.

Rose says,

(The students’) letters are so open and so naïve with wit, charm, pathos and more….Our job is to listen, to encourage, to answer their questions and let them see the value of letter writing.  There are the letters that have brought tears, but most are fun and funny.

After Rose’s article was published in late August, Volunteer Connections was inundated with volunteers. After the necessary background checks, and setting up agreements with new teachers, they report that their program has doubled in size, and is now being considered by volunteer centers in other counties.

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Pen Pal volunteer program connects seniors to students

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