Catching the volunteer spirit

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: April 2 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 7 April 2014 | 3:04 pm in

The Gazette Editorial

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What would Iowa be like without all of our volunteers and volunteer spirit? A lot less pleasant and desirable place to live, no doubt. And nowhere is that more apparent than in Eastern Iowa as National Volunteerism Week approaches.

In Linn County alone, during 2012, more than 20,000 volunteers contributed more than 850,000 hours ó an average of more than 40 hours each, says Leaders in Volunteerisim, a Cedar Rapids organization that promotes volunteerism. Their service and expertise was valued at more than $18.8 million in savings for non-profit organizations. In the stateís second-most populous county, with 470 registered public non-profits in Cedar Rapids, volunteers are critical to their effectiveness.

Nationally, Iowa has long had a reputation for strong community volunteerism. Much of that may be rooted in the many close farming communities of the past, but itís certainly found in our bigger cities today. Among the nationís midsized cities, Iowa City ranked No. 4 with 44.3 percent of its population reporting participation in volunteer activities, and Cedar Rapids ranked 10th at 38.2 percent, the Corporation for National and Community Service reported last week. As a state, Iowa ranked No. 5 at 36 percent, much of it involving educational and religious activities.

Obviously, volunteerism is important to our stateís quality of life and always will be. Even the best economic development results and government programs donít erase all the need for neighborly help during so many different kinds of personal crises, assisting our schools, or helping the elderly.

The Millennials, born between 1982 and 2000, have been maligned for a low civic and political engagement. But recent research finds them volunteering more these days, while also being less prejudiced than previous generations.

The older generation teaches primarily by example. If we volunteer often and well enough, our youth will carry on the tradition. Thatís because volunteering not only is good for others, it feels good to do it.

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