Idahoans leading in volunteer service

Guest Opinion

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Mike Crapo.U.S. Senator

The quiet service and giving spirit of Idahoans are among the many blessings I am counting this holiday season. A recently released study from the Corporation for Community and National Service (CNCS) further confirmed the prevalent service in Idaho communities concluding that Idaho ranks fifth in the nation for volunteer service.

In its annual Volunteering and Civic Life in America report, CNCS estimated 382,200 volunteers in Idaho provide 53.42 million hours of volunteer service with an estimated value of service of $1.1 billion. Further, more than half of Idahoans donate $25 or more to charity, and Idahoans devote an average of more than 37 hours to volunteering per person. Additionally, the report indicates Idahoans eat dinner with other members of their household, frequently talk with neighbors, participate in groups and organizations and engage in “informal volunteering” (for example, doing favors for neighbors) at rates exceeding national averages.

The CNCS also reported, “More than 180 AmeriCorps members and 2,500 Senior Corps volunteers are meeting local needs, strengthening communities, and increasing civic engagement through national service in Idaho.” Tutoring and teaching; mentoring youth; assisting with general labor; collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food and fundraising are among the top activities of Idaho volunteers. The corporation is a federal agency engaging millions of Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leading the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. More information on the report can be found on the corporation’s website, www.nationalservice.gov.

At a national level, CNCS concluded that one in four Americans volunteered through a formal organization and more than 138 million--an impressive 62.5 percent--also volunteered informally within their communities. This translated to nearly 7.8 billion hours of service with an estimated value of $184 billion.

Each November, with the assistance of area veterans’ organizations, I recognize outstanding veterans and volunteers in our communities with the Spirit of Freedom Award. Together, we highlight specific accounts of the remarkable spirit of compassion and generosity throughout Idaho. This past October, I had the opportunity to present volunteers, concerned citizens and residents in Idaho’s Clearwater, Lewis and Idaho Counties with Spirit of Idaho Awards for going above and beyond the call in rebuilding homes lost to wildfire last summer. Presenting this award to these outstanding Idahoans helps highlight the numerous, little-known examples of devoted and selfless community service.

I am not surprised by the numerous acts of kindhearted Idahoans recognized by CNCS, but I am continually impressed by the scale of Idahoans’ service-minded focus. Idahoans dedicate countless hours to helping others, and inspire giving actions through thoughtful examples. We can take great pride that our state is leading in the area of service to others.

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