man handing meals on wheels delivery to seniorIn 1991, President George H.W. Bush established April as National Volunteer Month to honor the millions of volunteers who support charitable and not-for-profit causes across this great nation. The U.S. Census Bureau states more than 64 million Americans volunteer their time and talents to philanthropic causes.

The Council on Aging, like most nonprofits, have countless volunteers who support our many social service programs, from food services, medical clinic assistance, adult day care activities, housing, and residential repair needs. Our annual fundraising events such as March for Meals, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations and the spring golf tournament require additional volunteers. In 2021, we had nearly 350 volunteers who gave more than 25,000 volunteer hours to the OCOA. For those individuals who consistently and generously volunteer at the Council, we say, ‘Thank You!’ immensely for your philanthropic time and service. We could not perform the work needed to support our seniors, disabled adults, and families in crisis, without your help. The fact of the matter is, without our volunteers, we could not fulfill our mission.

“Volunteering is one of the most beneficial actions we can do as human beings,” OCOA Volunteer Coordinator Marie Blackford said. “Our ability to provide time and expertise can make an immense difference in the lives of those we are helping.”

While writing this column, I came upon a myriad of fascinating statistics on the amount of volunteerism performed in this country:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals between the ages of 35 and 54 are most likely to volunteer their time; women volunteer more than men, by nearly 6 percent.
  • Volunteers are worth, on average, $28.54 an hour according to Independence Sector Study, a U.S. based membership organization that works with nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs.
  • Volunteerism has a value of more than $184 billion annually.
  • According to Career Builder, those who volunteer regularly have a 27 percent better chance of gaining employment. Hiring managers see the ‘act of volunteering’ as an asset for recruitment.
  • Research shows volunteers are nearly twice as likely to donate to charities than those who do not volunteer.
  • Volunteers under the age of 24 account for 22 percent of all volunteers.
  • Volunteers spend at least 50 hours annually donating their time to the greater good.
  • A study by Deloitte found 61 percent of millennials who rarely volunteer consider a company’s social commitment to the community when deciding upon a potential job.
  • According to an AmeriCorp report, an agency of the U.S. government, people who volunteer more than 100 hours per year are among the healthiest people in the U.S.
  • According to LinkedIn, response to the COVID-19 pandemic added more than 110,000 volunteer activities per month.
  • And my favorite statistic of all: one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, started The Union Fire Company in 1736 as the first volunteer-run firehouse worldwide.

So, why should we celebrate National Volunteer Month? Primarily, to better educate on the fact that serving those in need can make a powerful difference in the lives of others. Secondly, how should we celebrate?

First, thank a volunteer for their efforts. Second, think about volunteering. As you can see by the statistics above, there is a myriad of positive reasons to do so. Reflect on the multiple talents and skills you have which could benefit a charity and then reach out for volunteer opportunities. Finally, as most volunteers will tell you, volunteering is a rewarding experience which consistently enriches their sense of purpose.

In closing, as iconic actress Audrey Hepburn so eloquently stated, “As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

For anyone interested in volunteering at the OCOA, please call 407-846-8532.

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Published Wednesday, April 20, 2022