Dreamers. Delusional. Idealists. Spoiled.
These are all words that some people use to describe the generation of young Americans. Well, it seems like the talkers can add “giving” and “volunteers” to the descriptions as well. In an article posted yesterday on The Nonprofit Times, the rate of volunteerism has increased in America, even as the economy worsens. And, these figures are being boosted by people between the ages of 16-24 years old!
The Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) Volunteering in America estimates that 61.8 million Americans volunteered last year, about a million more than the previous year, and more than a quarter of the U.S. population. Of the one million additional volunteers in 2008, about 441,000 were between the ages of 16 and 24, up from 7.8 million to 8.24 million and boosting their volunteering rate from 20.88 percent to 21.9 percent.
Am I surprised? Absolutely not. My generation has grown up during 3 of the most life-altering moments in history (at least, in my mind).
1. The 9/11 attacks
2. Hurricane Katrina
3. Barack Obama’s election
With each one of these events, I watched as many people united as one to rescue victims, gather needed supplies, make phone calls, and stand side by side to make a difference. In the article, Alan Solomont, chairman of the board of CNCS, said that young people started “on a path of community service much earlier than before. Young people serving is reflective of their earlier service learning experience.” I couldn’t agree more. In high school, we were responsible for completing 40 hours of community service before graduation. You could choose whatever you wanted to do. Some people tutored, others taught basketball to local youth, I volunteered at the MS Society.
Volunteering while young sets a stage for a very fulfilling and rewarding existence. When I hear about children donating birthday gifts to hospitals or raising money for needy classmates, I can’t help but smile! And, while smiling is good, there are some very tangible figures on the value of volunteering. It’s estimated that last year’s nearly 62 million volunteers contributed about 8 billion hours of service worth $162 billion. Volunteers are also more likely to donate to a charity, with 78 percent donating $25 or more, compared to 39 percent of non-volunteers.
That is INSANE!!! In the best way, of course! Kudos to everyone who takes time out to volunteer, especially to all of the young people out there. We really are the future, and our service will help lead the way.