According to an article in the Journal of Community Psychology (read the full article here: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/fd7f/87065e4c1475953022c5b566af81fe893678.pdf), “when youth develop strong and engaging connections with their mentors, there is evidence that their capacity to relate well to others also increases”. The article also 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”. Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) (Director, Lisa J. Braun) volunteer Rick Nelson, has dedicated his time to Anna Marie’s Alliance for over 5 years as a Youth Mentor to address these concerns and hopes to guide the children he works with on a positive, more successful path.
The goal for Anna Marie’s Alliance, as stated on their website (http://www.annamaries.org), is to “provide women and children experiencing domestic abuse with a safe place to stay and resources to eliminate/escape domestic abuse.”
Since April 2013, Rick has served as a Youth Mentor (as well as assisting in numerous other roles) at Anna Marie’s Alliance. He has served many hours there volunteering over 500 hours thus far in 2018! Rick is a dedicated volunteer even occasionally coming in on weekends to water the flowers, “make his rounds on the property” and check in with the children to see how they are doing.
Manager of Volunteer Services and In-Kind Donations, Kim Salitros, says “Rick is invaluable to Anna Marie’s Alliance. Just yesterday I pulled into the parking lot and he had filled out planters with beautiful flowers. Seeing him give high fives to the kids as he walks down the hallway always puts a smile on my face. We cannot do the wonderful work we do, without RSVP volunteers like Rick.”
Rick said, “Starting out, I thought helping out in daycare a few hours a week would be a nice, small way to give back to my community, I never envisioned how much I would be receiving in return.” He adds “at any one moment my role could be as a surrogate grandparent, comforter of boo-boos, father, brother, or just professional friend to a resident, besides being an errand runner, lawn care worker, security man, building maintenance man, occasional jokester, whatever comes up. But, always a role model. This is my most important role here [at Anna Marie’s Alliance].”
While Rick’s volunteer service has certainly impacted Anna Marie’s Alliance as an organization, Rick has reaped benefits from his service, too. Rick states “my growth as a person since starting here has been amazing, this an aspect of volunteer work I never considered.” He also shared, “volunteering at Anna Marie's Alliance has been the most rewarding thing, [other than my own family] that I have ever experienced. A huge thank you to everyone at Anna Marie’s for continuing to make me feel welcome and appreciated.”
Other than the emotional benefits Anna Marie’s offers to Rick through his volunteer service, there are also physical benefits he reaps as a result of his service. Rick shared he is disabled due to chronic arthritis in his feet, ankles and knees. This physical disability results in Rick wearing a leg brace and having to ice his joints multiple times per day. Volunteering gives Rick a reason to be active despite his pain. Rick says “even though my arthritis is getting worse I have no intention of cutting back on my volunteer work at Anna Marie's Alliance. Being with the kids and staff help me to forget about my pain for a while.”
In addition to recognition and gratitude from Anna Marie’s Alliance, last year Rick also received the MCBW (Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women) Inspire Award for Volunteer. “It was both an honor and humbling, I obviously love volunteering, it is so rewarding on a daily basis”, Rick said of winning the award.
If volunteering as a Youth Mentor interests you, please contact RSVP to learn more about organizations, such as Anna Marie’s Alliance, which are searching for volunteers. RSVP partners with many organizations throughout our community which provide mentors for local children. RSVP connects volunteers, age 55 and better, to these agencies to support their efforts in achieving academic and life success for children. If you are interested in volunteering in your community, please contact RSVP at (320)255-7295 or visit www.ci.stcloud.mn.us/RSVP.