America Does Not Have Enough Volunteers

Unlike the 141 billionaires who have pledged to give away at least half of their wealth to charity through the “Giving Pledge,” an effort started by philanthropists Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, most of us don’t have the big extra dollars to help out our favorite charities, [s]o [we] need to help by volunteering […] instead.

According to the Corporation for National Community Service, 25.3% of Americans volunteer, [or roughly] 62.8 million [individuals]. They average 32.1 volunteer hours per person per year, which comes to 7.9 billion hours of service. […] Volunteering to help religious activities accounts for 34% of all volunteer hours; [e]ducation [accounts for] 26%, social services [for] 15%, health-related fields [for] 8%, civic duty [for] 5%, [and] sports and the arts each [represent] 4%. [A]ll ages volunteer, so the ethics of volunteering is being passed down from generation to generation. [Individuals] under 24 years old account for 22.6% of all volunteers, while [those] ages 25 [to] 44 [total] 26.7%, ages 45 [to] 64 [equal] 27.4%, and those over 65 account for 23.6%.

[What’s] discouraging, […] though, is the discrepancy of volunteer participation [by U.S.] state. [Several states’ constituents have a higher propensity to volunteer, including] Utah, [which boasts] a volunteer rate of 46% [of its total population], followed by Idaho (35.8%), Wisconsin (35.4%), Minnesota (35.3%) and Kansas (35.1%). [At the other end of the spectrum, however, are] Florida (20.1%), Nevada (19.4%), New York (19.2%) and Louisiana, with only 17.4% volunteering. […]

Why do people volunteer? Energize Inc. reports that most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives—today, you may be [able] to help, and tomorrow, you may be the recipient of another’s volunteer effort. […] Another reason is [because] “doing good” has been embedded in us since we began grade school. Every day, we are bombarded with disheartening news stories [with] issues we cannot influence or control, [s]o volunteering becomes a proactive way of doing something to make the world a better place. […] A third reason people volunteer is to do something they love, whether they are a gardener helping to clean up a blight in their city or a carpenter helping to build or repair a home. Volunteering can help new people in a community make new friends who share their interests and values. It can also can help you polish your resume with a commitment to help others, work in a new type of environment and help develop new skills. […]

Each volunteer’s story is unique. The Arizona Republic recently reported about Keith Colson of Phoenix, who was part of volunteer groups as a youth and wanted to teach his son the same values. [The Colsons] began by giving food to the homeless people on street corners together, [then] they volunteered at the Salvation Army, where he [volunteered alongside someone] who [would become] his wife. Reader’s Digest told the story of Austen Pearce of Maricopa, Ariz., who started volunteering at a food bank at age 10 and noticed the produce was past its prime. He lobbied his city for a community garden, and four years later, he is supplying 200 needy families with fresh produce he and other volunteers are growing.

What is your story, or what is the story you are going to create?

If you want to volunteer but don’t know how, go to the Hands On Network, which has 250 volunteer action centers matching 2.6 million volunteers to 236,000 different nonprofit initiatives. [You can also] visit Volunteer Match, which connects millions of people who want to volunteer to help animals, children, the homeless, their community, education and many more causes. […]

Community service is not political and it is not mandated by the state. It is something that comes from deep within our core values. Helping others can be as simple as washing dishes at your local shelter or delivering a meal to [the] elderly. […] Can you imagine the impact on our country if just another 10% of our friends and neighbors decided to volunteer for a worthy cause? […]

In our modern-day society, volunteering still forms the core of the American character; [i]t is who we are and how we pass caring and freedom to the next generation. […] If our kids can convince their friends and neighbors through social media that to help others is, in a sense, helping ourselves, we can continue to be the most charitable nation, just like our forefathers [envisioned].

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