Part III of IV of Unique Gifts for the Holidays
Volunteering has always made up a big part of the holidays. As numerous television specials and holiday-themed films have underlined over the past century and beyond, this is a season of giving. And the one thing that people can give regardless of income, status, or residency, is time.
For this third edition of Unique Gifts for the Holidays, La Vida Latina takes a deep dive into America’s volunteerism and where those hours are being spent and how there is still room left for more.
According to a federal study, more Americans than ever are volunteering. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released recently that 77.34 million adults (30.3 percent of the country’s adult population) volunteered through an organization last year. That comes out to nearly 6.9 billion hours, worth about $167 billion in economic value, that people spent helping out their fellow woman and man.
Informal volunteering - engaging in acts to assist neighbors, family, friends and other community members without going through an organization - is also on the rise as over 50 percent of the adult population reportedly engaged in acts of informal volunteering.
Volunteering side effects: win-win
“I think people are in a place where they feel the need now more than ever to engage in wholesome activities that help others,” said Trent Kesser, a 44-year-old sales executive who began volunteering regularly through a religious institution in 2001. “I know, personally, that volunteering on a regular basis has helped me be more outgoing as a person, which has helped me become more successful at work and, truth be told, without it, I wouldn’t have met my wife.”
That Kesser benefits personally by giving his time to others, is not an uncommon side effect of volunteerism.
In fact, according to the CNCS report, Americans who volunteer are twice as likely to donate to charities are Americans who do not volunteer. Volunteers are also more likely to engage in their communities, talk to their neighbors, participate in civic organizations, fix things in the community, attend public meetings, discuss local issues with family and friends, and vote in local elections than non-volunteers.
“It kind of goes with the territory,” Kesser said of his community involvement. “It’s a lot easier to get to know your neighbors through the fruits of your labor than through shuttered windows and closed doors. I know we are supposed to be a country torn apart by partisanship, but the truth is if you and I are both out shoveling the sidewalks for those who aren’t blessed with the same abilities we are, no one really cares which side of the fence you fall on. They’re just grateful to have a sidewalk to walk on.”
Volunteering by the numbers
That the 44-year-old Kesser is such an avid volunteer falls in line with his demographic, according to the CNCS. The report showed that Generation X (those born between 1965-1980) has the highest rate of volunteering at 36.4 percent, while Baby Boomers (1946-1964) volunteer the most hours (2.2 billion last year).
As for where volunteers are located, Utah at 51 percent reported the highest rate of volunteering at 51 percent, while Minnesota and Oregon were second and third, respectively. Colorado was squarely in the middle of the national rankings (50 states and the District of Columbia) at number 26 with a 32.4 percent rate.
The Centennial State saw 1.43 million volunteers contribute 121.8 million hours of service in 2018, a service worth an estimated $2.9 billion.
No need, no problem
The Holidays are ample for volunteering, to the point that some potential volunteers are turned away due to a surplus of volunteers. In those cases Kesser offers this unique gift idea.
“Make a commitment to volunteer each month out of the year,” he said. “Sure the food pantries, community shelters and other organizations are good for now, but they won’t be in February. Make the commitment now to volunteer throughout the year and it will change you. More importantly, it will make someone else’s day, week or month that much better.”