YVC Voice

  /  In Focus   /  The right fit
Project Warmup hats on a table

The right fit

Project Warm Up gives seniors a way to get involved and give back

“I enjoy packaging up and seeing agencies pick up the items,” says long-time volunteer Evelyn Campbell. “They are always so appreciative. It makes me feel good to be involved.”

Project Warm Up is part of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) at Yakima Valley College. RSVP offers a wide range of opportunities for seniors, like Campbell, to put their skills and knowledge to work in places where help is most needed.

For Project Warm Up the focus is providing those in need with materials to help keep them warm. Items include hats, scarves, afghans, lap robes, baby blankets and dish clothes. The program involves meet up times for volunteers who work individually at home and in groups to create warm items for distribution.

Getting involved with the project was one more way for Campbell to give back. She has personally contributed more than 5,000 items and isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

A service-minded person, before joining RSVP she had spent years volunteering for local organizations including Davis High School, American Red Cross and the VFW. In addition to crafting hand-made items to donate, Campbell also helps the group by keeping records, tracking volunteer donations and preparing items for distribution. She also serves on the RSVP Advisory Council.

Pam Rapach
Long-time volunteer Pam Rapach crochets a hat during a recent gathering for RSVP.

Each year YVC’s RSVP program provides over 4,000 items through Project Warm Up to individuals served by agencies and organizations such as Birthright of Yakima, Catholic Charities, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, People for People, Triumph Treatment Centers, Yakima Valley Farmworkers Clinic, Voices for Children, the Yakama Nation and early learning centers and area schools.

For husband and wife John and Pam Rapach, Project Warm Up provides anopportunity to be together and continue their lifelong vision of giving back to the community.

“I grew up in a family that always paid it forward,” says Pam Rapach. “You never know who will be in need, someday it might be you. So we’ve always given back when we could.”

Over the years the couple, both retired from careers in education, have been involved in other service projects such as Wounded Warriors, Independent Order of Odd Fellows and their local Grange. They are active supporters of Young Life and are both retired volunteer firefighters.

Pam, who’s been a Project Warm Up volunteer for 17 years, inspired  John to also get involved 12 years ago.

“I originally got involved with Project Warm Up because my wife was in the group,” says John Rapach. “We live in Bickleton so it’s a bit of a drive for us to come into the valley. The program gives me the flexibility to join in when I can or run other errands in the valley when needed.”

Evelyn Campbell
Evelyn Campbell counts and tracks volunteer donations for Project Warm Up.

In total the couple has donated over 4,400 items.

Newcomer Annette Menard, who joined the group within the last year, is excited to put her love of crocheting to a good cause.

“It’s nice to have a place to donate my pieces,” says Menard. “The project has helped me realize the need of many homeless individuals. We don’t think twice when it’s cold to bundle up. [People who are homeless] have to think about how they’ll get warm. I’m glad to be part of the solution.”

In 2022 Project Warm Up volunteers provided over 4,400 items to those in need. The program is made possible by a grant from AmeriCorps Seniors and in partnership with Pacific Power and Light.

“Our partnership with Pacific Power and Light helps us purchase our yarn, treats for our events and other supplies,” says RSVP Coordinator Kelsey Brontide.

“As someone who loves to crochet myself, I know that the biggest challenges with this art form are the cost of yarn and figuring out what to do with your finished pieces once all of your family members’ couches are draped with handmade afghans,” said Brontide.

Kelsey Brontide and John Rapach
RSVP Coordinator Kelsey Brontide, left, asks volunteer John Rapach, right, a question about a project she's working on.

Knitting and crocheting are unique skills, she noted, and the funds for materials provided by Pacific Power and Light have enabled RSVP to keep the program going for over a decade.

“As a volunteer opportunity that provides both an outlet for older adults to share their rare creative talents and a way to contribute warmth to those who might otherwise remain cold, this work is very dear to our program,” Brontide said.

Individuals wanting to volunteer with RSVP, or to donate money or yarn, can contact Brontide by email or at 509.574.4766.