If a person lives in the seven-county metro area, it seems as though volunteer opportunities are nearly endless.
But the further one goes in rural and semi-rural counties like Chisago, the amount of places to volunteer one’s time noticeably drop. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t unique, engaging volunteer opportunities to be found.
One fairly unique program in Chisago County looking for more volunteers is the Volunteer Bailiff Program.
It’s been operational in Chisago County for five years, and there’s a similar program in Sherburne County.
RSVP, an organization sponsored by Volunteers of America-Minnesota that connects adults age 55 and over with volunteer opportunities, solicits people to take part in the Volunteer Bailiff Program and other volunteering possibilities.
Those who decide to dedicate some of their time to the volunteer bailiff program help process and deliver paperwork and assist defendants in following procedure, which helps the full-time bailiffs focus on their normal job duties.
The result is a court system that runs more efficiently.
“The judges love it,” Monique Mendyke, associate director of the East Central Minnesota RSVP Program, said. “They love the way the volunteers conduct themselves in such a professional manner.”
She added that the volunteers “streamline” the court process, which many days means court gets done earlier than expected, saving taxpayer dollars.
“They truly are saving a lot of money,” Mendyke said.
Rachel Laurie, RSVP recruitment and outreach coordinator, said RSVP keeps data on volunteering nationwide, and that data has shown the average volunteer is “worth about $21 an hour.”
A ‘very interesting’ opportunity
North Branch resident Janet Lasch has been part of the Volunteer Bailiff Program since its inception.
She describes the program as “very interesting.”
Lasch said she’s learned numerous facets of the Minnesota court system by being a volunteer bailiff; there’s a lot more to going to court than she thought when she first started five years ago.
“In the beginning, I thought you’d only have to go to court one time (for most violations),” she said. “Most cases don’t work that way.”
She explained some defendants might have three or four court dates before sentencing occurs.
“It’s a process to protect their rights,” she said.
She added the bailiffs and judges have been very helpful to her and other volunteers seeking to learn more about the court system.
Looking for more volunteers
Currently, there are 11 volunteers in the Chisago County Volunteer Bailiff Program. RSVP is hoping to attract more.
Mendyke said she’d like to get at least three or four more volunteers for the program, which would allow RSVP to set up more volunteer opportunities in the Chisago County Government Center.
She’s hoping to find some people who would like to work at the information desk at the front of the building, so when people unfamiliar with the process come into to government center, they’ll have knowledgeable volunteers able to help them get to where they need to go.
Laurie said there are benefits beyond just the good feelings that come with helping one’s community when volunteering with RSVP.
She noted the organization offers three kinds of supplemental insurance to its volunteers, and there is out-of-pocket mileage reimbursement, if needed. She also added the lead bailiff in the Volunteer Bailiff Program, Sgt. Patrick Romano, treats volunteers “very nicely,” and he’s always willing to answer questions about the court system.
For those who would like to volunteer with the Volunteer Bailiff Program or other find other opportunities through RSVP, contact Monique Mendyke at 612-390-5218 or [email protected]