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Numbers of older volunteers decreasing during the pandemic

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - At a time where lending a helping hand is needed more than ever, the pandemic has created a downturn in the number of volunteers in the Coulee Region.

Peter Grabow with Volunteer Services at Mayo Clinic Health System said hospital volunteers provide various helpful services in areas of hospitality, transportation, and even assisting with disinfecting high traffic spaces in hospitals like waiting and visiting rooms on top of what the hospital janitorial staff cleans. Grabow said volunteers range in age from 14-years-old to 97-years-old.

"Our volunteers provide an extra measure of support, compassion, and an extra smile," Grabow said. "Our volunteers provide to all a sense of feeling welcomed, encouragement and most of all, supported."

Grabow said Mayo used to have a little over 250 volunteers. Now that number is down 30 percent.

Over at Coulee Region RSVP, the retired and senior volunteer program is lacking numbers as well according to Ruth Kinstler, the Volunteer Coordinator. She said it's due in part because of the age of those who give their time and efforts to the organization.

"Our volunteers are 55 years old or better and have so much to give. Our seniors have so much to offer the community from their experience," Kinstler said. "My job is to keep our volunteers active because I don't want them sitting at home and being depressed or lonely."

Before the pandemic, RSVP had 40 volunteer transportation drivers and are down to three. Kinstler said RSVP once provided 20 rides a day and is now down to five.

RSVP volunteers provide handmade wheelchair or walker bags, clothing items, and even help out with handy work at the homes of the elderly.

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Lindsey Ford

Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist.

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