John F. Kennedy’s inaugural words will never ring as true than during National Volunteer Week, which this year falls on April 21-27. First instituted in 1974 by President Nixon, National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate the power and social impact of service. This year’s theme is “Celebrating People in Action,” honoring those who take action to solve significant problems in their communities.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that leads United We Serve, President Obama’s national call to service initiative, Americans are volunteering more than ever. 2011 saw the highest number of U.S. volunteers in five years; 64.3 million Americans volunteered an estimated 7.9 billion hours with an estimated economic value of $171 billion. Although the price of volunteerism is immeasurable, these estimates help organizations acknowledge the millions of people who dedicate their energy, talents and time to making a difference.
Endorsed and supported by President Obama, Congress and other national and state leaders, National Volunteer Week is also recognized by corporations and nonprofit organizations in numerous events throughout the country. Various corporations will exercise their corporate philanthropy nationwide in recognition of their employee volunteers.
In good company
Need ideas? Here’s what a random sampling of some organizations have in store:
Defense company Raytheon will encourage employees to volunteer by organizing and participating in events that represent Raytheon’s key corporate citizenship areas: mentoring students in math and science, empowering veterans through education and supporting needs in their local communities. Raytheon employees have demonstrated passion about the communities where they live and work, having donated nearly 400,000 hours in the past two years.
Some of Raytheon’s National Volunteer Week events include in Portsmouth, R.I., “Creating Your Future in Math & Science” where Raytheon employees will introduce students from Kickemuit Middle School and the Lincoln School to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. Raytheon employees in the Washington, D.C., area will conduct interactive science experiments as part of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s Techstravaganza. And in Boston, at a celebration of nanoscale science hosted by the Museum of Science, Raytheon employees will introduce parents to their MathMovesU® program, a company initiative committed to increasing elementary and middle school students’ interest in math and science education by engaging them in hands-on, interactive activities.
In another nationwide effort, thousands of employees from Wisconsin-based Kohl’s Department Stores are celebrating National Volunteer Week and Earth Day by volunteering in their local communities for Kohl’s fourth annual National Go Green Event. Employees will volunteer for youth charities by participating in environmentally-based activities through Associates in Action, Kohl’s employee volunteer programs. Kohl’s will also engage in corporate giving by donating a total of $2 million to participating charities. A few of the planned activities include volunteering with land trust Growing Power to plant, weed and do construction work in support of community gardens and an urban farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. New Jersey employees will do a beach clean up in Sandy Hook and to support children’s environmental education in Texas, associates will help clean up the Austin Zoo.
Members of the American Gaming Association (AGA) will be holding their annual “All In for Giving and Volunteering” campaign during National Volunteer Week. The initiative features gaming companies across the country participating in employee volunteer recognition activities while also engaging in local community volunteer projects.
In Las Vegas, Aristocrat Technologies has events planned for every day of the week, including building wooden toys for Toys4Smiles, assembling food and toiletry bags for seniors at Helping Hands, and helping with spring cleaning at Street Teens.
Isle of Capri in Boonville, Missouri is aiming to log 100 total employee volunteer hours during the week. Planned activities include food prep at a food bank and general maintenance and storm clean-up at a local animal shelter. Some employees will also build houses for Habitat for Humanity and host a resident birthday party for seniors at an assisted living center.
Nonprofits: how are you stepping up?
Non-profits are encouraged to seize the moment and not only celebrate the week through volunteer recognition but to also promote community outreach by offering plenty of volunteer opportunities.
In Chicago, Heartland Alliance, which helps the impoverished improve their lives and realize their human rights, is requesting volunteers for their spring service projects. The projects include office work, gardening, clean up and construction at various mental health and homeless shelters along with teaching banking and money skills to Heartland Alliance clients.
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) of Sarasota County, Fla. will celebrate National Volunteer Week by holding volunteer recognition events and participating in public health and emergency preparedness activities. Volunteers will serve as MRC leaders and offer health education as part of a local public health initiative and provide medical care and counseling for victims, families and responders.
Various organizations nationwide will be holding events to combat hunger in their local communities. The Hunger Heroes Project in North Central Massachusetts is holding a volunteer event to help establish food security in local food pantries by packaging 20,000 meals. Another Massachusetts non-profit, Cooking Matters, an organization that teaches nutrition education is looking to train as many volunteers as possible to teach hands-on cooking skills to low-income families. And the Twin Cities United Way’s Caring Connection Program has a full week of volunteer activities, from serving meals for hungry families and homeless youths at various shelters to sorting and packing food at Second Harvest Heartland.
Since our nation’s founding, volunteers have been the backbone of social action and change. Technological advances and social networking have now made volunteering even simpler, and as societal needs grow amidst shrinking budgets, volunteers are needed now more than ever. National Volunteer Week highlights the spirit of giving and the enormous contributions that volunteers make every day.