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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid