RSVP Volunteers Enjoy Building Dreams for Families with Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity

Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity works tirelessly to fulfill their mission of “gathering communities to transform lives through affordable homeownership” and achieve their vision of assisting everyone in Central Minnesota with having a decent place to live. They do this by implementing and embracing their core values of partnership, empowerment, dignity and faith.

Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity originated in 1988 when a steering committee of eight St. Cloud citizens saw the need for decent, affordable housing in our community. In 1989, Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity was granted affiliate status and began constructing their first Habitat home in St. Cloud leading to the first partner family purchase in 1990. Since then, the organization has sold houses to 86 families throughout Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties. Additionally, the Central Minnesota chapter of Habitat for Humanity has helped fund over 92 homes in Costa Rica, Paraguay, El Salvador and Nicaragua. (Information from the Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity Website) The organization is truly an asset to our community.

Another asset to our community is the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) (Lisa J. Braun, Director). RSVP is a national volunteer program engaging men and women (age 55 or better) in meaningful volunteer service strengthening the well-being of both self and community. RSVP volunteers have been an invaluable asset to Central Minnesota since 1973 and locally serve Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties. (Information from the RSVP Website)

When RSVP heard about Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity they saw a natural opportunity for partnership and the opportunity to connect the time and talents of RSVP volunteers with Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity. RSVP saw this partnership as a potential avenue to fulfill their aspiration of being a “bridge between those who need and those who give” throughout central Minnesota. Since the partnership between RSVP and Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity was established in 1990 there have been 112 RSVP volunteers who have served over 4,754 hours for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity through their housing construction efforts, office support, assistance at the St. Cloud ReStore and more!

Volunteers are a lifeline to the Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity. One of these irreplaceable volunteers is Ralph Nistler. Ralph has volunteered for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity through RSVP for over 20 years! Ralph volunteers doing construction on houses for the organization. Ralph initially was involved with everything in the construction process from putting in the foundation of the house to pouring walls. However, as Ralph ages he has transitioned to mainly working on the trim in the house after the construction crew plasters and paints. Ralph has worked on 35 houses for Habitat for Humanity over the years and completed 3 houses in 2015. Ralph truly enjoys volunteering for Habitat for Humanity saying “The real reason I am doing this [volunteering] is because I feel like I need to give back. I am retired and volunteers are good people to be around and I like people. There are about 4 of us guys who work on the houses together. It’s a comradery. It also feels good to do something for someone other than myself.” In talking to Ralph, he spoke a lot about his passion for carpentry as a hobby. In his professional life, Ralph was a meteorologist for the National Weather Service but he explained he has always enjoyed carpentry. In fact, Ralph built his own home nearly 60 years ago where he still lives today! “I worked as a meteorologist but carpentry is in my DNA really. I really enjoy it.” Ralph explained. “Since the good lord has given me good health I should be able to do this [volunteer].”

Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity shows their gratitude for their volunteers each year at their “Dream Builders Reception” recognizing their volunteers, sponsors and donors. Ralph is especially appreciated by the organization’s staff. This was evident in 2015 when Ralph was inducted into the Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity’s Volunteer Hall of Fame for his hard work and dedication. Ralph was inducted into the Volunteer Hall of Fame with two other volunteers, which was quite fitting as Ralph says “I enjoy being around other volunteers. We all become friends and you can’t put a price tag on that.”

In addition to construction of houses, many RSVP volunteers serve at the St. Cloud ReStore. ReStore is a home improvement products company providing new and gently used furniture and building materials at well below retail price. The business is part of Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity and all proceeds from the store are spent on the non-profit organization’s efforts. The local ReStore, located on West St. Germain Street in St. Cloud, has been open for over five years. Since the store opened 24 RSVP volunteers have served over 2,200 hours at the St. Cloud ReStore.

RSVP is recruiting more volunteers to serve with Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity and the St. Cloud ReStore. If you are ages 55 or better and you are interested in making a difference in your community please call the RSVP office at (320)255-7295 or visit our website at www.ci.stcloud.mn.us/RSVP to explore the many volunteer opportunities which await you!

-Jacquie Willis