Public demand for social services has been increasing as the recession deepens. That demand creates a greater need for volunteers to provide those services. Fortunately, the recession also created a new pool of potential volunteers to help. Last week, Cities of Service announced grants to ten cities, including Pittsburgh, to hire chief service officers to recruit citizen volunteers for community service projects.
Cities of Service is a coalition of American mayors recruiting citizens to address our most pressing needs. Pittsburgh’s Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was a founding member of the group, which “will respond to the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act’s historic call to action by finding new and innovative ways to harness the power of volunteers to help solve pressing local challenges.”
Unfortunately, the mayor’s website contains no mention of the grant, or his plans to implement it. That’s not surprising.
If you want information, call the mayor’s office at 412-255-2626.
Ask him what he plans to do.
One -fifth of all Americans, and about one-third of Pittsburghers, volunteer at some time during the year. That volunteer time corresponds to an estimated $1.4 billion economic contribution, every year, in the Pittsburgh region alone, and $158 billion in the US. I’ve worked with and for nonprofit agencies for nearly 30 years, and I can tell you that our social service system would collapse without them. In fact, volunteer coordination is a major facet of nonprofit organization management.
So where are all of these people? They serve in your schools, your churches, your hospitals, your fire departments, your scouting troops, your children’s athletic organizations, and your libraries. They work in countless service agencies – food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, health clinics, home delivered meals for the elderly, animal shelters, political organizations, and others. It’s the volunteers who show up first after natural disasters. Fundraising “walks” raise hundreds of millions of dollars for dozens of causes. Even your school board members are volunteers.
If you’re a volunteer – Thank you! If not, you should try it. There are countless opportunities. Don’t say that you don’t have time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. According to the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, people who volunteer watch an average of 15 hours of television per week. Those who don’t volunteer watch TV an average of 21 hours per week. So turn off the TV, put on your shoes, and do something worthwhile.
Okay, what’s in it for you? When you volunteer, you’ll make new friends, share your skills and gain new ones, enhance your resume, make important networking contacts, and you’ll contribute to a cause that’s important to you. You’ll also help a charity to spread its dollars further so the organization can help more people. You can even make contacts that could lead to a new job. I did that many years ago when I was unemployed. And it feels great!
Even if you don’t live in the city, you know you can participate too.
So. You’ve been unemployed for a while now. You don’t have much money, but you do have some time on your hands. You can only cut the grass – wash the car – paint the porch – clean out the closets so many times. Wouldn’t you like to do something interesting and constructive with your time again? Even if you are employed, you can still volunteer a few hours each week.
If you’ve received services from local nonprofit agencies, give something back. Make sure that service can be available for others who need it. Volunteer.
Yes, you do have plenty to offer. Whatever your interests, your talents, and your schedule, there is work waiting for you. And your neighbors need you.
For more information
• Serving Pittsburgh: The city can raise volunteering to a whole new level
For volunteer opportunities
• United Way of Allegheny County
• Pittsburgh Cares
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