Volunteering and American Culture

Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the needs of others around the world, as well as in this country and its cities and neighborhoods. This can be seen from the large number of Americans using their time, money and talents to support organizations which help those less fortunate. Statistics show that 62.8 million Americans volunteered last year and 7.9 billion hours were given to charitable causes, with the value of these hours estimated to be $184 billion!

Volunteering is unpaid work done for another person or organization. In 2014, 1 out of 4 Americans volunteered at a charity, and two thirds helped their neighbors. Corporations now organize days during the year when employees can work as a group at a local charity, doing tasks such as sorting items at a food bank or clothing collection center, or tackling a building remodel in a poorer neighborhood. In addition, many Americans volunteer their time at organizations overseas, using their vacation days to take ‘a trip with a purpose’, and many corporations allow their employees to take extra time off if this is how it is to be spent.

Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, says, “Volunteers enrich our communities and keep our nation strong. Service also connects us with our neighbors and provides a chance to use our skills for the common good.” Clearly, this is a valued part of American society.

How can you fit into this part of American culture? Recently, Time magazine published several helpful tips for finding your place in the volunteer movement. Choose an organization with personal significance to you, and volunteer according to your strengths and interests. If you love children, look into mentoring at a local school or after-school kids’ program. A regular commitment to volunteering will have more impact: try to go every week or every month to the same soup kitchen or building project. You will not only get to know the people who work there regularly, but also see greater results from your work.

Think you don’t have time to volunteer? Consider donating just an hour or two on a weekend, or organize groups at your company to volunteer. Help make it a company priority – then you are also doing it on company time! Consider engaging your family on a weekend or holiday so that your children will benefit from learning to contribute in a meaningful way to the lives of others.

How do you find opportunities to volunteer? A quick online search with the word “Volunteer” and your zip code will bring up lots of opportunities. And of course there are apps for this! ‘VolunteerMatch’ gives listings of organizations according to location and interest, while ‘GiveGab’ lets you connect with fellow volunteers.

This is also great conversation topic to help you get more involved with Americans. Ask people you meet whether they volunteer, where, and if you can come along next time. Join in volunteer initiatives at work; it will help you get to know people and give you more in common with them. You’ll also get to meet Americans and see places you might not otherwise. All the better if it’s a family activity.

Not only does volunteering have a meaningful, positive impact on your community, but when you add volunteering to your life, you get the satisfaction of helping someone else, connecting with your fellow workers, and learning some new skills!

Carol VanDyken<

Sources:

https://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/

http://www.nationalservice.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/new-report-1-4-americans-volunteer-two-thirds-help-neighbors

Time magazine, April 25, 2016, “Lauren Bush Lauren On How – And Why – To Give Your Time To Others.”

http://www.worldvolunteerweb.org/resources/how-to-guides/volunteer/doc/benefits-of-volunteering.html

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