Despite pandemic, RSVP reach expands into 2021 – Reading Eagle


Turn the lemons into lemonade. This is how RSVP Executive Director Michele Moll sees the continued need to deploy virtually and over the phone the 1,200 volunteers of the Delaware Valley Community Service Organization due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thinking back to 2021, Moll said: “I realized this year that there will always be a place for virtual volunteering. It allows us to reach people we have never been able to reach before. It also allows us to include volunteers who may have mobility or disability issues, or who simply prefer to provide their services at home.

RSVP’s many programs focus on education, wellness, and support for other nonprofits. Prior to last year, its volunteers, many of whom were seniors, often visited schools and other community places. The need to go virtual has created new ways of delivering long-standing services, as well as a new program that seeks to bring technology online to people who lack digital skills or access.

When asked to describe their 2021 climax, five RSVP program coordinators described ways in which services provided remotely have benefited the community, sometimes in new ways.

Technological training

A program launched late last year to provide online skills to older people has turned into a strong initiative to “bridge the digital divide,” said Michelle Hang, technical training coordinator. She develops illustrated online courses in five areas: Internet Security, Email, Web Browsers, Applications and Zoom.

Several Chester County nonprofits and RSVP have come together to form the Digital Equity Coalition. They intend to bring online access and skills to farm workers in the Kennett Square area who often lack it. Through this coalition, Hang is “training trainers of trusted community organizations” who in turn will provide online instruction as early as spring 2022 to those who have not been able to function online.

RSVP is also in discussions with several school districts to bring Internet skills to parents who have been excluded from services such as online transcripts and teacher conferences.

“My highlight is developing material that could ultimately help hundreds, if not thousands, of people,” Hang said. “It’s a huge ‘big picture’, and I’m delighted to see what impact we can have.”

“I’m trained in the technical RSVP sessions so that we can do the training for families,” said Kelly Figueroa, instructional technology coach for the Kennett Consolidated School District.

She envisions a process where “when new families enroll in school, the registrar will ask them if they need connectivity or training. We will ensure that all of our families have access to the Internet and the knowledge to use it.

RSVP’s Internet courses “have been excellent. The amount of information they were able to provide is just amazing, ”she said.

Mathematics and reading programs expand

The pandemic has brought an extension of RSVP’s already virtual math education program, My Free Tutor, as well as increasingly sophisticated software to the VELLO virtual reading program, provided to students in Grades 1-5 in partnership with United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

“My highlight in 2021 is that we were able to expand our virtual math program not only to serve high school students, but also students as young as third graders and as old as first generation students,” said declared the coordinator of My Free Tutor. Anabella Tracy. “This in turn opened the program to volunteer home tutors who might be intimidated by teaching high school math but who are comfortable with tutoring skills like multiplication.”

Jackie Matusow, RSVP’s Literacy Programs Coordinator, said 2021 brought positive feedback from parents of elementary school students receiving VELLO reading tutoring. The program started in the summer of 2020.

“Parents told me that their children were much better at reading and that VELLO played an important role in this improvement,” she said.

“Other parents have said their children are very excited to read now. We also found that children, parents and volunteers have become more confident in their online tech skills, ”said Matusow.

“I think we are very fortunate to have the support of excellent volunteer tutors,” said Aheyon Baek, whose first and third year sons started VELLO reading sessions this summer. “We speak Korean at home and I didn’t want them falling behind in school. Their grades meet or exceed expectations, and the program improved their interest in reading.

More help for other nonprofits

For many years, through its Volunteer Executive Consultants (VECs), RSVP has helped other nonprofits raise funds, professionalize their operations and attract participants. Last year, the pandemic forced VEC to provide its services via Zoom teleconferences and this year, “we have used Zoom to extend our reach in a number of ways,” said program manager Sheri Burke.

For example, attendance at a series of spring and fall workshops offered to managers of nonprofit organizations is no longer limited to the 40 people who can fit in RSVP’s King of Prussia boardroom.

“Our Meet the Funders workshop in September brought together 63 participants who learned about fundraising strategies,” said Burke. “In addition, we record the workshops so that people who could not attend can see them later. “

In addition, “operating virtually has allowed us to help more people than before and to include volunteer consultants who live outside the region. We now have a VEC living in Minnesota, and another has joined us from Lehigh Valley, ”she said.

Alan Frankel, retired corporate executive and consultant, has led numerous VEC teams.

“We can take on much larger projects through Zoom than in the past. It’s much easier to bring people together and it has also allowed us to include more volunteers who are still working, ”he said.

In 2021, Frankel led a VEC team that sometimes included seven volunteers. They helped the Maryland Foundation of Dentistry create a procedures manual for its 250-300 dentists, who provide free services to low-income people. They also created a marketing and communications plan and plan to recruit and retain volunteer dentists.

“Neither the dentists nor our volunteers could have done this without Zoom,” said Frankel, who is also a member of the RSVP board.

Medicare advice includes appeals

Specially trained RSVP volunteers provide free health insurance advice to residents of Montgomery County through the federally funded PA MEDI program. Before COVID, they provided this advice at sites across the county.

In 2020 and 2021, Zoom phone calls and teleconferencing replaced in-person sessions. RSVP’s 27 volunteer counselors helped 344 grantees during the 2021 open enrollment period, program coordinator Douglas Keene said.

Many of these calls helped seniors decide which health insurance programs to enroll in or whether to change programs. But Keene’s climax in 2021 involved a different kind of advice that PA MEDI offered: how to appeal when a Medicare prescription drug insurer refuses to pay for a drug.

“I helped the husband of a woman who was prescribed a drug so expensive that few could afford it,” Keene said. “Medicare has a five-step appeal process. We worked on the third step, an appeal heard by an administrative judge.

Keene himself provided the advice “to gain experience myself and later train volunteers to provide call assistance when called”.

“I tried for weeks to get help from lawyers and Medicare support groups, but no one was able to help me until I got a referral to RSVP. I left a message and Doug called right back, ”the husband said.

He said without additional help, the annual cost of his wife’s medications, even with a prescription medicare plan, would rise to over $ 20,000.

“Doug is an amazing, thoughtful, knowledgeable and caring guy,” he said. “He and I sat together for two hours and put together five different pieces to substantiate the case. “

Keene also helped submit an appeal to the drug’s manufacturer, which has a patient assistance program. The results of these calls are pending.

For more information on RSVP volunteer opportunities and programs, email [email protected] or call 610-834-1040, ext. 123.

RSVP nonprofit connects volunteers to dozens of community service opportunities. Its programs improve the lives of vulnerable populations with an emphasis on education and well-being.


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