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Volunteering in America—Billions of Hours Served Translates to Huge Impact on our Nation

by Robert Velasco, II

Every day, volunteers give their time and talents to help make their communities and country better. Last week, we released our annual Volunteering in America report -- data critical for understanding volunteer trends and demographics, including who is serving, where they are serving and where community needs still exist. This data is vital for elected officials and nonprofit leaders as they develop strategies to mobilize more Americans to address local needs through service.

So what did the report tell us this year? Looking at the big picture: 62.8 million adults served almost 8.1 billion hours in 2010. That's equivalent to every single person in the U.S. volunteering for more than an entire day. Using the Independent Sector's formula for valuing volunteer time, we estimate that hours served in 2010 were worth $173 billion.

Local leaders and state officials alike recognize the indispensible role these millions of volunteers play in our communities. Since 2009, more than 100 mayors have committed to working together through the Cities of Service Coalition to foster volunteerism in the areas with greatest local need, as well as support efforts to increase service opportunities locally and nationally.

But it's the personal volunteer experiences that tell the whole story.

Henry White retired from teaching 10 years ago and has been an active volunteer at the Athens/Limestone County Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Alabama ever since. White and fellow volunteers focus their work on disaster response, education, financial planning, and care giving—all areas of need within the Athens/Limestone community.

When tornados hit his community this past April, White was one of many volunteers who answered the call to service. For eight days, White cut and cleared trees and debris from 383 damaged or destroyed homes to help rescue crews reach storm victims and deliver food, clothing, and aid. White's tireless service is a true testament to the impact that volunteers can have on a community in the aftermath of a disaster—and to the individual devoting his/her time.

White volunteers with RSVP as an opportunity to give back to the community he has lived in his entire life. Along with 500 other Athens/Limestone RSVP volunteers, White helps to fill critical voids, meet community challenges, and positively impact the lives of other Alabamians.

A Profound Impact

Daphne McPherson is another volunteer making a profound impact on her community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After graduating from Marquette University, Daphne became involved with Public Allies, an organization dedicated to identifying talented young adults and placing them with local non-profits and volunteer organizations to help expand and improve services.

As an Ally, McPherson was matched with the I Have a Dream program at the Clarke Street School in Milwaukee and was put in charge of recruiting volunteers. She found volunteers to work in the classroom and critical after-school programs.

McPherson and the volunteers she recruited worked with 64 students in the program and helped contribute to the dramatic transformation in both their academics and behavior. McPherson and her partners at the I Have a Dream program are just a few of 1.65 million Wisconsin volunteers who served more than 172 million hours in 2010.

No matter how you volunteer, you are providing a powerful economic and social benefit to the individuals and communities you serve.

Everyone can serve, no matter how much time you have or what skills you have to offer. To find an opportunity in your community, visit

Robert Velasco, II is the Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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