RSVP in Action

RSVP Volunteer, "Doug the Science Dude" Shares His Passion for Science with Local Students

RSVP volunteer, Doug Petersen, retired after working 25 years as the Museum Education Director for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History in northern California. Upon relocating to St. Cloud, Doug was seeking a volunteer opportunity which would give him the opportunity to use the skills he learned throughout his career at the museum.

RSVP connected Doug with teachers at Oak Hill Elementary School in St. Cloud to develop a program for 2nd graders which would spark their interest in science. Doug calls this program “Doug, the Science Dude” and he jokes “Bill Nye, the Science Guy was already taken.”

​ Doug states “It’s my intent to get kids excited about science and show them how it helps us understand the world around us. And, that there is so much neat stuff in our world that there are lots of different branches of science and lots of different scientists, both men and women, trying to figure out how everything works.”

​ Doug’s weekly fifteen minute program includes him showing students a variety of cool and unique specimens he has collected from different areas of scientific study. Doug has a dozen presentations developed from geology to paleontology to anthropology and more! Doug is even known to “dress the part” for the lesson he is presenting! “I hope to both entertain and amaze them [the second grade students] and perhaps pique their curiosity, inspiring some [students] to look at science as a career choice for themselves” Doug says.

​Teachers and the students alike love to have “Doug the Science Dude” visit their classroom! Kristina Tykwinski is a second grade teacher at Oak Hill Elementary. Kristina’s students began regular lessons with Doug and she says “He is AMAZING!” Kristina expresses how much the second graders enjoy hearing all of “Doug the Science Dude’s” lessons stating “the kids were in a trance listening to him share his love of science! I am so excited our students get to learn from his passion and expertise each week!”

​ Doug is one of many RSVP who serve in the classroom. If you are interested in volunteering in local schools please contact the RSVP office today!

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RSVP Volunteer Finds "Sunshine" Through Her Selfless Gift of Time

An article in the Journal of Community Psychology states “youth with natural and volunteer mentors have been found to be more likely to graduate from high school and attend college and less likely to take part in delinquent problem behaviors”.

When volunteer, Linda Cooper, enrolled with the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) over four years ago she expressed interest in volunteering in a wide variety of activities. Some of these areas included: animal care, face painting, disaster services, crafts, gardening, photography, computer tutor, quilting, theatrical production and more! One area of interest which was naturally a good fit for this retired teacher was working with youth. While RSVP partners with nearly 50 organizations who support children in our community, Linda chose to apply to be a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota (BBBS).


Linda has been mentoring a 13 year old girl as a “Big Sister” for about a year and a half spending more than 100 hours with her “Little Sister”. Linda says this volunteer position was a perfect fit for her and states “I love kids and she [Linda’s Little Sister] is really a sweetheart”. Linda says some of their favorite things to do together are play bingo, go to movies and other fun activities. However, Linda says her most valued outings with her Little Sister are attending education, college and career fairs. Linda relishes the opportunity of exposing her Little Sister to the possibility of higher education and future careers. Linda is thrilled to be a guiding role model in this young lady’s life.

The staff at BBBS also feel Linda is making a positive impact in our community. Ann Matvick, Program Director at BBBS, says “I have observed her [Linda Cooper] and her Little Sister at activities and have always found Linda to be very respectful of her Little Sister’s opinions and beliefs, patient, kind and encouraging.” Linda expressed that while she sees the benefit she provides to her Little Sister, being a volunteer brings her so much joy and “keeps her going” as well. Linda says “volunteering is good for me. I get the benefit from being the volunteer”. Many studies have confirmed the link between volunteering and healthy aging; proving what Linda says is true. For example, a Brown University study shows people who volunteer tend to live seven years longer than their counterparts who do not volunteer. Furthermore, a Harvard study found people over age 50 who volunteer on a regular basis are less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. When asked if others should consider volunteering as a “Big Brother” or “Big Sister” Linda says “Definitely. Volunteering gives me a good feeling in my heart that I am doing the right thing and I am making a difference.” BBBS greatly values their volunteer mentors saying “Our volunteers are the backbone of the BBBS mission. Without them, we would not have a program. Our mentors generously give their time to a child facing adversity and help navigate them on a path towards a brighter, more promising future. We are truly grateful for their commitment to BBBS and are confident they will have a lasting impact on the lives of their Little as well as the future of our community.” Linda exclaims “volunteering brings me sunshine!”

RSVP Volunteers Commit Nearly 6,500 Hours to the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

The Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) in Sherburne County, Minnesota is a wildlife conservation jewel in the service area of the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). SNWR is home a variety of habitats, including the highly unique and globally rare oak savanna. The Refuge is home to awe inspiring animals of flight, such as bald eagles, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, and monarch butterflies. The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Over 30,000 acres are managed not only to for the wildlife, but also to provide outdoor recreation and education to the 100,000 annual visitors.


​Since the year 2000, 37 RSVP volunteers have invested nearly 6,500 hours to assist the SNWR to meet its mission. Currently three key RSVP volunteers work not only with outdoor projects on the land at the refuge, but also serve extensively in the Eagle’s Nest Nature Store in the long-planned, newly-constructed Oak Savanna Learning Center. Diane Stroschein, Darlene Antinozzi and Sharon Kolstad fully share in the refuge mission. Carrying out that mission has brought them joy in their service.​

​When asked about the value of what they do at the refuge and the personal benefits they enjoy because of their contributions, all three volunteers mentioned the myriad relationships that are experienced through their service. The network of interpersonal exchanges include those among volunteers, with staff, with students and with both local and international refuge visitors. Through these relationships a bond is formed. Darlene expressed it this way: “We all share the same love of the outdoors and how we can keep it in its best condition for future generations”.

All three also agreed that the educational opportunities available at the refuge have not only educated them about conservation, but have empowered them to share the message with others they encounter on the refuge. Diane feels especially passionate about the value to the youngest visitors: “I especially love seeing the children soak up their experiences and time at the refuge. They will be the stewards of our environment and if we do not teach them the value of the outdoors, future generations will lose something very valuable. Knowledge is key and we can help do that.”

​ Ultimately, it is only through the continual appreciation and promotion of sound conservation practices carried out a little at a time by many people like these three RSVP volunteers, and the dedicated staff with which they serve, that we can hope to preserve natural diversity and beauty for others to enjoy far into the future!

Click here to get started volunteering with RSVP!