9/11 is being marked by many organizations as a day to serve your community by volunteering. But volunteering can be so much more than a one-day thing. It can be a rewarding and enriching experience for your family.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering and service, just released new data on volunteerism. Volunteering in America is the most in-depth report on national service – spotlighting who volunteers, what cities have the highest rates of volunteerism, how Americans are serving their community, and more.
In 2010, volunteers devoted nearly 8.1 billion hours - giving time, expertise and “sweat hours” valued at nearly $173 billion. Of these volunteers, 22.7 million were Parents who dedicated 2.7 billion hours of service to communities across the country. Volunteers are working to tackle some of the nation’s toughest challenges: tutoring students, preparing and distributing food, providing disaster relief, and helping veterans and families of active military.
I had the opportunity to do an e-interview with Robert Velasco, II, who was designated Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) by President Obama on May 27, 2011. CNCS is the federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in results-driven service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.
1. What are some ways AmeriCorps volunteers make a difference?
AmeriCorps members come from all backgrounds, regions and age groups, but are united by a shared desire to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. Through the many programs under AmeriCorps, service members tutor and mentor disadvantaged youth, build affordable housing, teach computer skills, help keep community members healthy, conserve our environment, assist with disaster response, fight illiteracy, and scale up existing programs.
2. What age groups and geographic areas have the most volunteers?
According to this year’s “Volunteering in America” report, some of the higher volunteer rates are among Baby Boomers (30%), Teenagers ages 16-19 (26%), and Older Adults ages 65 and over (24%). Young people enrolled in college also frequently volunteer. Around the country, the Midwest (31%) and the West (27%) have had the highest volunteer rates over the past three years, followed by the South (25%) and the Northeast (24%). Whether your state or age group ranks high or low, the Corporation for National and Community Service encourages all Americans to share their time and talents to meet the needs in their communities. To find opportunities in your community visit www.Serve.gov.
3. What are some ways people can get involved with AmeriCorps?
You can find out more by visiting AmeriCorps.gov. There are also countless other service and volunteer opportunities that can be found at Serve.gov. The Corporation for National and Community Service – the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps – also supports the work of thousands of nonprofit and faith-based organizations across the country that are meeting local community needs through service.
4. What about people who might have disabilities or special needs - how can they help their communities?
The service opportunity descriptions at Serve.gov should provide a sense of whether or not a given project fits what you’re looking for. You should also feel free to follow up with the organizer to share your interest and – if you already know – describe how you’d like to help. A big part of service is finding creative solutions and everyone can play a valuable role in strengthening our communities and making a difference.
5. What are some personal benefits of volunteering (how does volunteering benefit the person who volunteers, not just the community)?
Service is far from a selfless enterprise, and volunteers take away just as much as the people they serve. In addition to the profound satisfaction that comes helping others, volunteers learn new skills, make friends, have an increased feeling of belonging, and gain experiences that help them in other areas of their lives.