Christian Weemsbelieves the community benefits from individuals who give their time through volunteer work. She has engaged in multiple types of projects from disaster relief to church service. Christian has even served her home of Chandler, Arizona, by participating on two city committees. Here she shares some ways for others to get involved.
At The Local Level
Residents of the city of Chandler can learn about volunteer opportunities through the For Our City program. This group offers a place for charitable organizations, church groups, businesses and individual members of the community a central place to come together. This tool streamlines communication efforts to realize greater accomplishments.
Service projects are posted via For Our City, and volunteers can choose from the work that suits them best. Whether volunteers are interested in ongoing opportunities or one-time projects, they can find them here. A few examples of available service opportunities include:
- Assistance to the elderly
- Neighborhood cleanups and repairs
- Painting projects
- Tutoring children
- Supporting families in crisis
- Helping special needs individuals
- Service at community schools
- Working at homeless shelters
A great way to get started is by taking part in the annual Live Love Day. Thisonce-a-year opportunity encourages community members to work together to beautify the city of Chandler. Past projects have including landscaping, painting, and neighborhood pickup projects.
The For Our City program began in the summer of 2009. A group of community leaders from all aspects of business, government, non-profit organizations and religious institutions wanted to find a way to address community needs through service. For over three years, the program has stayed true to its intent to bring the community together through volunteerism.
At the State Level
Arizona has a bit of work to do when its rates of volunteer service are compared with other states in the nation. In terms of volunteer service, it presently ranks 37 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. The state is home to 1.2 million volunteers which accounts for 24.6 percent of residents. These volunteers provide approximately 170.6 million hours of service for a value of $3.6 billion. The Greater Phoenix area, which encompasses the city of Chandler, is also ranked 37th in terms of service among 51 large cities.
On The National Level
The Federal government supports the United We Serve initiative to encourage volunteer service. In part, the program was started to encourage economic growth even though much of the country experienced a financial downturn. Social needs are ever present, even when funds are scarce, and this program encourages community members to meet those needs.
United We Serve hopes to realize two goals. The program focuses on engaging new volunteers to expand the impact of existing organizations. It also encourages volunteers to develop their own service projects.
Christian Weemsknows a thing or two about that. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans in 2005, she immediately set out to help. She did so by organizing a group of youth volunteers to assemble hygiene kits for those who had been displaced.
The people of Chandler donated each and every supply for the kits. At the end of the project, the group delivered 2,500 hygiene kits to people in need. This is truly an example of how ordinary individuals can come together to achieve extraordinary goals. “As we came together as a community to serve those in need, our thoughts were turned to the many blessings in our own lives.”
To support the growth of volunteer service in the nation, the government has established a number of beneficial websites to encourage the work of volunteers. These tools make it easier than ever before to find local opportunities as well as create one-of-a-kind projects. Individuals or organizations with a project idea can even recruit volunteers using these tools.
Christian Weems:Influences on Volunteer Rates
Attachment to Community
First and foremost, feelings of attachment to the community encourage volunteer service. For example, rates of homeownership are correlated with volunteer serving. Owing a home indicates one is committed to the community in which he or she lives. Therefore, volunteer rates are typically higher in areas where most individuals own, as opposed to rent, homes.
Like homeownership rates, individuals who live in areas with a high number of nonprofit or charitable organizations are more likely to volunteer. This makes logical sense as more organizations lead to more available opportunities. The availability of these projects makes it much easier for community members to find ways to get involved.
Education& Socioeconomic Factors
The volunteer rates measured in a community rise along with the level of education. For the most part, individuals who hold college degrees are more likely to volunteer than less educated individuals. Poverty rates also affect volunteerism as those who are financially disadvantaged are less likely to volunteer. The cause of these correlational relationships is not known.
Unemployment & Foreclosure Rates
Low volunteer rates are observed in states that have high unemployment and high foreclosure rates. This is reasonable as both of these factors are associated with a lack of attachment. They can also indicate financial distress which contributes to socioeconomic factors.
Benefits to Volunteer Service
Why do people volunteer? When asked this question, most individuals who volunteer will state their service provides a sense of satisfaction. Doing good for the community simply makes most people feel good.
In addition to intangible benefits like feelings of accomplishment and pride in a job well done, measurable benefits are also apparent. Problems are solved and lives are improved. People connect with one another as they strengthen the community.
Recently, research studies have shown volunteer service is also correlated with good health. Individuals who volunteer experience lower rates of depression as well as lower mortality rates. In addition, they enjoy greater functional ability. Most of these benefits are more pronounced in the older adult population and in volunteers who give 100 or more hours per year.
Christian Weemsnotes the amount of good that volunteers can do for the community is unlimited. Through the many projects in which she has participated, Christian has certainly experienced the benefits volunteer service can have on the individual and world at large. Christian Weemsencourages everyone to make a difference through volunteer service.
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