News / USA

Despite Hard Times, Volunteering Spikes in US

Volunteer rate jumps among all race and ethnic groups

Americorps volunteers mobilize in Joplin, Missouri, after a devastating tornado earlier this year.
Americorps volunteers mobilize in Joplin, Missouri, after a devastating tornado earlier this year.

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

The number of Americans volunteering in their communities jumped by 1.6 million last year, the largest increase in six years, according to a recent government report.

According to “Volunteering in America,” 63.4 million Americans gave 8.1 billion hours through  formal organizations in 2010. The volunteer rate went up among all race and ethnic groups.

“We have found out that volunteering is core to who we are as Americans,” says Heather Peeler, spokeswoman for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency which conducted the study. “What we've found is that volunteers are working with youth through mentoring and tutoring. More than a quarter of volunteers are helping non-profit organizations raise needed funds. And one out of five volunteers are giving what we call ‘sweat hours,’ the general labor that’s needed to help non-profit organizations run.”

More essential than ever

The United States has a long tradition of volunteering, as opposed to many European countries where government is pervasive and provides most of basic services, like free daycare for children and comprehensive medical care. In addition, recent cuts in the budgets of many U.S. states have made volunteering even more essential.

According to Peeler, American volunteers provided services valued at nearly $173 billion last year. Utah ranked number one among the U.S. states. Among cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul, in Minnesota, led the way.

“The people in our communities in the greater twin cities say we’re not just going to complain about a problem, we’re going to do something to help solve it,” says Kathy Saltzman, executive director of the Minnesota Education Corps.

More than 900 of the organization's members donate a year, without pay, to help improve children's literacy.

“If children cannot read by 3rd grade, they have such an overwhelming obstacle to overcome in order to be successful because first you learn to read," says Saltzman. "After 3rd grade, you read to learn.”

Finding the time

Minnesota Education Corps also recruits volunteers like Mike Ginal, 51, who dedicates an hour a day, five days a week, to tutoring children.

“We get to the school and the kids come into a classroom where it is one-on-one interaction," says Ginal. "There is a set story for the child to read. We’re doing any corrections and basically tracking the student’s progress in comprehending the stories. We ask specific questions regarding the story. Also, we are checking them for how many words per minute they have benchmarking throughout the school year.”

Ginal and his wife have time to volunteer because their kids are grown.

“We’re not chasing our kids in their activities now and we definitely have more time to devote to the community," he says. "We’re involved in feeding the seniors here in town. This weekend we’re picking apples for the food banks from a donating apple orchard.”

Gen X gets involved

While Ginal belongs to the older generation of Americans known for their volunteering,  the Volunteering America report finds people born between 1965 and 1981, known as Generation X, volunteered more time in 2010 than ever before, contributing 2.3 billion hours.

And young adults, partly due to social networking, are becoming more active as well.   

Quinn Gardner, 25, is a volunteer coordinator at AmeriCorps, the national service organization. Her focus is disaster relief.  Her volunteers are currently helping residents of Joplin, Missouri recover from a devastating tornado earlier this year.

“Some of my teams have been down here since day one," she says. "So in events of disaster, we specialize in volunteer management, donation management as well as direct services, helping owners gain access to their home, removing trees, roofs, creating space environments.”

According to Gardner, young people volunteer for many reasons.

“I think a lot of these people come out for the experience, to help someone else, give back and find themselves in the process."

CNCS spokeswoman Peeler hopes the study provides officials and non-profit groups with the information they need to mobilize more Americans to help meet pressing needs.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs