In 1974, former President Richard Nixon released an executive order to establish National Volunteer Week. Since then every sitting president and even local mayors and governors have requested Americans put their efforts toward improving their communities through various outreach organizations. Each year during one week in April, our fellow Americans band together to illustrate the week’s theme and “Celebrate [and become] people in action”.
Sponsored by the Points of Light Institute in combination with the Hands On Network, this year’s Week is coming to an end. It’s not, however, too late to get out and do something active! Though we generally encourage volunteerism throughout the year (hello, what’s the theme of this column?!), this is the one week out of the year that we really reach out to those who don’t usually do this kind of thing. There are plenty of opportunities still out there, just waiting for you (yes, you! *points at you*) to come help out.
This week also carries with it the opportunity to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a recognition certificate (looks great on a resume) that notates your involvement and honors the amount of time you volunteer for a given year. There are three levels of award, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Kids who receive the Gold Award need to put in 100 hours of volunteer service. Their young adult conspirators must contribute 250 hours and the adult Gold Award recipients must donate 500 hours per year. Think about it….there are 8,760 hours in a year. 2,290 of those are supposed to be spent sleeping. Figure about 2,080 for full-time working. That leaves 4,390 hours. All that’s needed to receive this award is a measly 500 of those.
This one week and the support it receives from various groups and civic organizations has had a significant impact on Americans. According to the Hands On Network, the number of volunteers has increased exponentially between 1989 and 2008. The rate of youth volunteers has increased 60 percent in those 19 years and the Baby Boomers have also experienced an increase. With a 40 percent increase over the same time, they showed great promise when compared to the same age group from 1989. In addition, educational organizations and those that work with children showed about a 75 percent increase over the same time period. These numbers speak volumes about Americans and our willingness to help our environments and others.
This year in his presidential proclamation, President Barack Obama outlined what American volunteers stand for and what kind of impact they actually have….even the ones who don’t think they do much. He said,
During National Volunteer Week, we celebrate the profound impact of volunteers and encourage all Americans to discover their own power to make a difference. Every one of us has a role to play in making our communities and our country stronger. I encourage all Americans to help us renew progress and prosperity and build a brighter future for our Nation by visiting www.serve.gov to find a local project.
What’re you waiting for?! Be the “Point of Light” that Randy Travis so lovingly sang of in his 1991 hit song! Get up, get out, and CELEBRATE National Volunteer Week!!!!