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Giving back: RSVP+ Dakota West volunteers helping their neighbors

Press Photos by Linda Sailer RSVP+ volunteer Cheri Fogelman fills the shelves of the AMEN Food Pantry with sugar on Tuesday afternoon.

Cheri Fogelman refills the AMEN Food Pantry shelves when she volunteers there. It’s one of the jobs she was doing Tuesday as part of her volunteer service for RSVP+ Dakota West.

Moving here from Weatherford, Texas, a month ago, she was looking for a place to volunteer — just as she had been doing at the Center of Hope in Weatherford.

“I was looking for things to keep me busy,” she said. “I don’t have a job, I don’t know anybody. This is a good way for me to give back to the community and to meet some people.”

Cheri’s husband, Brian, moved here in November for employment in the oil business.

“My husband and I were apart because of his job here, and I was just ready to move,” she said. “I quit my job and moved up.”

Learning about the RSVP+ program, she applied as a volunteer.

“It’s helped me meet new people and gives me an opportunity to get out,” she said. “We live in a fifth-wheeler, so I get stir crazy. This gives me something to do and it’s a service to the community.”

Fogelman is one of more than 500 volunteers who are registered with RSVP+ Dakota West volunteer bank. Last year, the program celebrated its 40th anniversary. The program matches volunteers to non-profit organizations in southwestern North Dakota such as thrift shops and House of Manna.

 “Those are some of the places that rely on volunteers, and we have special projects throughout the year like gift wrapping,” coordinator Rick Gordon said.

He described volunteering as a two-way street.

“When you start volunteering, you create a purpose for yourself. As payback, you receive a lot of self-gratification that you’re doing something good for the community.”

He works with office assistant Susie Kapelovitz and the RSVP+ advisory board.

Kapelovitz is always on the lookout for potential volunteers  — especially newcomers to Dickinson.

“They become connected with the community — they meet other people who come to volunteer,” she said. “I say to people who are new to the area, volunteering is a two-way street. It makes those people from out-of-state feel welcome in the community and they are filling a need we have here.”

Kapelovitz is currently helping the RSVP+ advisory board prepare for the upcoming Bags, Baubles and Bubbly fundraiser on March 27. The board is looking for basket items for the silent auction, such as gift certificates, a bottle of wine or food items.

Tickets are already being sold for a limited number of Diva Tables. The tables come with a Diva Dude, who will wait hand-and-foot on his guests, Kapelovitz said.

Entertainment can be spontaneous. Last year, a guest musician volunteered to sing for the highest bidders, she said.

The funds help RSVP+ plus cover expenses such as the Voice Book project. This is a program in which inmates at the Dakota Women’s Correctional Rehab Center at New England record their voices reading a children’s book. Their children receive a DVD player and the recording.

“That way, they can listen to their mom’s voice reading,” she said. “It’s one of the many projects we can do throughout the year.”

RSVP+ is a volunteering program for all ages.

Joseph Herold has volunteered with RSVP+ at least 20 years, and longer without being registered. He sings with the Happy Sing-Along group and volunteers at AMEN Food Pantry and House of Manna.

“I meet a lot of different people and I see the joy in people’s faces when you help them out,” he said.

Marie Thompson and Bethol Knutson are registered as both RSVP+ and St. Joseph’s Hospital Auxiliary volunteers.

“I feel really good about volunteering, plus it gets me out of the house,” Thompson said.

“It’s very fulfilling — I like doing something that is worthwhile,” Knutson said.

Donna King and Rosemary Vranna volunteer for RSVP+ and Friends of the Library. They joined together years ago and work at the Twice Sold Tales used book store.

“This is the only place I volunteer and I’ve been here since it opened,” she said. “We come one afternoon a week and I look forward to it,” King said.

“I love to read and this is like a candy store,” Vranna said. “That’s why we’re here. It’s the perfect volunteer spot.”

To support the fundraiser or to become involved as a volunteer, call the RSVP+ office at 701-227-8421.