The value of volunteers
October 23, 2023
I grew up understanding that being part of a community meant giving of your time and talents whenever possible to enrich others.
My dad was a member of the Robinson Lions Club when I was a kid. My mom took us to many activities and events led by volunteers, including 4-H and Sunday School. Both my parents served on church boards and committees, and I remember watching my grandmother prepare and serve meals at funerals and other special events in her church.
We volunteer. It’s what we do. There are examples all around us.
The Carrington Lions Club celebrated 40 years of volunteer service to the community this month. As I worked on the front page article for the Independent this week, I was surprised by how many projects, programs and community events they have a presence in. We applaud and celebrate them!
We also recognize the efforts of the New Rockford Area Betterment Corporation, who was honored with the prestigious Bush Prize by the Bush Foundation this past week. Although the director position is paid, the board of directors that lead the organization are all volunteers. You’ll find that story on the front page of the Transcript this week.
Several weeks ago, we ran a story in the Independent recognizing Allen Stock, former publisher of the Independent, for his 40 years of service to the Kiwanis Club.
Kudos to Melanie Quinton, who recently announced that she had coordinated Community Roller Skating activities in New Rockford for eight years straight.
This is the kind of dedication that local people put in day in and day out around our local communities, and they nearly always do it without fame or fanfare. Without them, our communities would look a lot different, and not in a good way.
Volunteerism has been changing though, particularly since the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps (the federal agency for national service and volunteerism), 23.2 percent of adults said they had formally volunteered for an organization in the past year, a drop of 7 percentage points between 2019 and 2021.
That's the biggest decline since the survey began in 2002. Volunteerism peaked between 2003 and 2005, when 28.8 percent of Americans said they had volunteered within the past year.
The research, released every two years, shows that those who formally volunteered gave more than 4.1 billion hours of service with an estimated economic value of $122.9 billion.
“Volunteerism is Changing in the United States,” states a piece written by Deborah Block for Voice of America (voanews.com). Block asserts that as the definition of volunteering has widened to encompass more activities, “formal participation in traditional volunteering has been steadily dropping as more people opt for sporadic opportunities that fit better into their lives.”
That’s reflected in the survey results. In fact, more than half of U.S. adults surveyed said they had informally volunteered by helping a neighbor or friend in need in the past year. They helped neighbors by doing favors like watching each other’s children and running errands.
That’s okay. The Carrington Lions Club is a testament to the value of formal volunteering, while anyone who’s been helped by a neighbor will tell you their efforts are just as invaluable. I say help when you can, where you can.
That’s why I will continue to serve on the New Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors for as long as I’m needed.
Rather than wait for accolades, we’ll keep organizing the 4th of July celebration (yes, that includes the parade and fireworks!), Santa Day and the Jolly Jingle Christmas promotion, among other things.
I am just as grateful for the young people who have recently stepped into leadership roles in the Chamber as I am for the fine ladies who have served on the board for decades. It takes all of us working together to ensure that the next generation sees us doing the work and understands the importance of volunteerism.
My kids participate in Eddy County 4-H Shooting Sports, and they have completed several service projects that require volunteering their time. My middle child is a member of the local National Honor Society chapter, and one of the requirements of membership is volunteering in the community at least 15 hours per school year.
It takes teamwork to make the dream work. Which “team” of volunteers will you join, and who will you tap to serve with you? Think of it like your fantasy football team, where no matter what, you always win!