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RSVP changes name to A.C.E. of Southwest Minnesota

WORTHINGTON — While RSVP of Southwest Minnesota may have changed its name to A.C.E. (Advocate. Connect. Educate) of Southwest Minnesota, the volunteer opportunities and programs for the aging that have existed in the past will continue into the future.

Joanne Bartosh, Nobles County A.C.E. coordinator, said the new name encompasses all that the local organization does.

“We’re more than a volunteer program,” she said. “What we’ve been doing, we’re still going to continue to do. The volunteer aspect is still very important.”

Bartosh said A.C.E. of Southwest Minnesota will continue to provide the evidence-based programs the local RSVP organization has become known for — training people in memory care, chronic disease self-management, falls prevention and powerful tools for caregivers. These are programs that encourage people to take better care of themselves and each other to reduce potential medical costs. They also provide opportunities for volunteers to help others in their community.

“We can recruit and train volunteers for those programs,” Bartosh said. “There’s just such a need right now to help people understand how to help themselves.”

The name change, which took effect Jan. 1, was a grant requirement. The new name also corresponds with the addition of a new executive director for the region. Michelle Baumhoefner of Fulda began her role Jan. 1, and is based at the Murray County A.C.E. office. She will oversee six offices, including those in Cottonwood, Murray, Nobles, Lincoln, Redwood and Rock counties.

The Nobles County program continues to have a long list of volunteers — more than 360 individuals had logged hours in 2013, with more than 230,000 volunteer hours in the first 11 months of last year — but more are always welcome, Bartosh said.

The areas of greatest need for volunteers are currently in driving individuals to out-of-town doctor or other appointments, while Bartosh said local nursing homes and care centers are also in need of volunteers to help with activities like Bingo or simply to visit with residents.

“Their numbers of volunteers are really declining,” she said. “That’s a challenge right now.”

With Baby Boomers either at or approaching retirement age, Bartosh has found it a challenge to bring them into the network of the local volunteer organization. The boomers, she said, need to be educated on the importance of giving back to their community.

“It’s important to lend a hand, because that’s how our communities continue,” she said. “We need to teach people that these community services that we’ve always known need to continue … the Bloodmobile, hospital auxiliary, Community Christmas Baskets — even right down to the church volunteers. Somehow we need to get the world out that these are essential. What’s going to fall through the cracks when these (older volunteers) aren’t there?”

Volunteers are needed not just to step in and ensure certain services continue, but to see that their fellow neighbors are being helped.

“We’re going to need people to understand how to be caregivers and how to be a caregiver,” Bartosh said, adding that networks are being established to help people stay healthy in their home and community.

“We’re also doing memory care coaching, and an offshoot of that is the virtual dementia tour,” she explained. “We’re using that as a tool to help people understand Alzheimer’s.”

Some of the most active stations where A.C.E. volunteers can be found are at the Bibles for Missions Thrift Store in Worthington, the local food shelves and hospital auxiliary.

“We have people knitting baby caps for the hospital auxiliary, stocking caps for kids at schools and baby blankets for Helping Hands (Pregnancy Center),” Bartosh said.

The A.C.E. program is open to individual volunteers ages 55 and older, though Bartosh said she won’t turn away younger volunteers.

“Although we recruit people of all ages, we can’t count those hours of younger individuals for my grant, and they can’t be covered by our insurance,” she said. “If people are interested in volunteering, we’ll put them to work in a place they enjoy.”

For volunteer information, contact Bartosh at 295-5262. Her office is located on the second floor of the Nobles County Government Center in Worthington.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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