In a time of budget restraint and service reductions, is it time to revisit the volunteer? Recent natural disasters – floods, hurricanes, train wrecks – led to an outpouring of community engagement and involvement. All lauded.
But do residents see their contributions limited to disasters?
When will boomers start to demand entry to public agencies as talented, committed, engaged volunteer workers? And are we ready?
Why do young people have access to some agencies and not others for community service?
In many communities, volunteers are a critical piece of service delivery – valued, capable, responsible, necessary. In others they are simply blocked, by unions says management, even when there is no mention of volunteers in a collective agreement.
In the U.S. the Cities of Service movement is an organization of dozens of cities looking to connect city agencies with volunteers for maximum benefit. Can we afford to sit at the sidelines and look dumbfounded (or negative, or like deer in headlights) when the subject is broached? Yet I don’t hear much discussion of this topic beyond dismissal out of hand.
In 2010 the Corporation for National and Community Services found that almost 63 million adults volunteered more than eight billion hours — services valued at more than $170 billion.
Volunteers benefit too. Young people become more positive about their communities and their role in them. Volunteer work experience leads to higher employment by all age groups. And volunteers become strong advocates for public agencies.
Shouldn’t we start the conversation before the helping hands are demanding to be let in?