Volunteerism high in Colorado
The Denver Post
The economic downturn has led more Denver and Colorado residents to volunteer their time, according to a report released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that promotes volunteering.
Last year, 127,000 more Colorado adults volunteered than in 2007, bringing the state’s total number of volunteers to 1.3 million, according to the “Volunteering In America” report.
The state’s volunteering rate of 33.3 percent is higher than the national rate of 26.4 percent and ranks Colorado 17th for volunteering in the nation.
Denver’s numbers also were up, with 593,000 metro residents volunteering in 2008, 45,000 more than the year before, according to the report.
These trends ring true for Heather Spencer, community-affairs specialist for the Colorado branch of Volunteers of America, a faith-based nonprofit.
Between October and January, her branch had a 181 percent increase in inquiries about volunteering opportunities.
Spencer also found that the recession boosts people’s drive to volunteer.
“A lot of people contacting us are out of work and are looking for something to do or to increase their networking efforts,” she said.
This was true for Garth Lorenzen, who lost his job as an administrative assistant for an environmental-consulting firm 10 months ago. Lorenzen spends about 20 hours a week updating Volunteers of America’s databases.
“If I can’t find someone pay me to do this, I’ll give it away,” he said. “I need to keep working in an office, keep my office skills sharp, and I wanted to give back.”
Unemployment also is why some chose to volunteer with the Community Connect Program at Manual High School, said project manager Tanesha Bell.
Bell said others come to help because of President Barack Obama’s “Call to Service,” a volunteering initiative that started this summer, or because they “live in the community and just want to help out.”
The report shows that 26.8 percent of the state’s volunteers are African-American, compared with 18.8 percent nationwide. Bell said that only four of her 52 ongoing volunteers are black.
“We have a good variety of volunteers,” she said. “We’re wanting anybody and everybody to come.”
The majority of the 38 volunteers at the Black American West Museum are African- American, said JoKatherine Holliman Page, co-chairwoman of the museum’s board.
Within the African-American community, there is considerable interest in the museum’s activities, Holliman Page said. She said she hopes to cultivate that as she develops the museum’s volunteer program.
For Lorenzen, the community involvement that comes with his volunteer job is bringing him fulfillment beyond a boost to his resume.
“I’m very happy with myself,” he said. “It’s much better than sitting home and watching TV all day long.”
Claire Trageser: 303-954-1638 or email@example.com