- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2009

Volunteering remains steady despite the recession, a new report has found. And guess who and what are fueling the steady pace. If you guessed young adults and their can-do attitude and American spirit, you hit both nails on the head.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which released the report last month, said in a press release that the Volunteering in America 2009 report includes “the most comprehensive data ever assembled on volunteer trends and demographics.” It found, the release says, that 61.8 million Americans volunteered through an organization in 2008, up 1 million from 2007. It also found that America’s volunteers dedicated more than 8 billion hours of service in 2008, worth an estimated $162 billion.

“While the formal volunteering rate in America remained relatively stable at 26.4 percent, other less-formal ways of serving in communities have dramatically increased,” CNCS said. “The number of people who worked with their neighbors to fix a community problem rose by 31 percent, from 15.2 million in 2007 to 19.9 million in 2008, suggesting an emerging trend of self-organized ‘do-it-yourself’ service, a trend the Obama administration is working to encourage through its United We Serve initiative and Serve.gov website.”

The report also found an increase in the number of volunteers - from 7.8 million in 2007 to 8.2 million in 2008 - among 16-to-24-year-olds. “The finding aligns with other indicators suggesting a strong service ethic among the millennial generation, including a 217 percent increase in applications to AmeriCorps over the past 8 months,” CNCS said.

“In this time of economic distress, we need service and volunteering more than ever to build a new foundation for growth,” said first lady Michelle Obama, as quoted by CNCS. “This report suggests that Americans are responding to the hardship around them by reaching out in service to others, giving their time when they cannot give their money. It reminds us of the generosity of the American spirit, and challenges us to work harder to make service part of the daily life of every American.”

Nicola Goren, acting chief executive at CNCS, said: “Driven by young adults and neighbors with a do-it-yourself spirit, Americans are responding to tough times by reaching out to help others in need. The need is great, the momentum is strong, and potential is unlimited for ushering in a new era of service in America.”

The report also issued city and state findings:

c For the fourth year in a row, Utah was the top volunteer state with a 43 percent volunteer rate, followed by Nebraska with a 38.9 percent rate.

c Minneapolis-St. Paul once again ranked No. 1 among large cities at 38.4 percent, followed by Portland, Ore., with 36.7 percent.

c In the second annual look at volunteering in 75 midsize cities, Provo, Utah, again led the nation with a 62.9 percent volunteer rate, followed by Iowa City (42.9 percent); Ogden, Utah (43.6 percent); Madison, Wis. (41.5 percent); and Topeka, Kan. (40.7 percent).

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