Volunteering is not limited to a single week out of the year, but there is one week on the calendar when we are all encouraged to thank volunteers who make our lives happier and safer. National Volunteer Week in the United States and Canada is the time for recognition and awareness of all volunteers.
“National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities,” stated the HandsOn Network on their website. “ It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.”
Thank a volunteer, The HandsOn Network is the largest network of local volunteer centers around the world, and each year leads over 2 million volunteers, over 25 million service hours, over 236,000 service hours and $579 million of service. National Volunteer week, April 6-12, 2014, is a program of Points of Light, an organization that oversees four volunteer enterprises, including the HandsOn Network. This is the 40th year of National Volunteer Week.
Volunteers of all ages and abilities are needed across the U.S. and in Canada for everything from firefighting to delivering meals. Volunteers can be helpful during the midst of natural disaster for a few days or weeks or they can provide consistent care to friends, neighbors or strangers in their community for months and years. The HandsOn Network has different categories of volunteering—Neighboring, Skills-based Volunteering, HandsOn Disasters, Community Blueprint, and National Service.
Volunteers of America, which was founded in 1896, today helps more than 2.5 million people throughout the U.S. with programs with a combination of their full-time staffers devoted to service and those who give their free time to support those programs. During 2013 they had 55,653 volunteers providing over 1.4 million hours of service. Of those volunteers, 16 percent are over age 55, 36 percent are age 18 to 54 and youth volunteers under age 18 made up 26 percent of their volunteers (22 percent of their volunteer did not identify their age).
To find a volunteer opportunity near you, go to www.pointsoflight.org or www.voa.org or www.volunteermatch.org. These websites have incredible and inspiring stories of volunteers who have overcome their own odds to give back to others or simply chosen to give their time and expertise to those in need in their communities. In Canada, volunteers can turn to Volunteer Canada to sign up for a volunteering role that suits them or call a hotline to thank one of Canada’s 13.3 million volunteers at 1-855-372-5077. Businesses can also get involved in a corporate volunteer program through any of these organizations.
Join the ranks of some of the most famous volunteers: Ben Franklin, who in addition to being a founding father, founded the first volunteer fire department; President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter are the most famous volunteers at Habitat for Humanity; astronaut Sally Ride who co-founded the Girl Scouts’ Camp CEO, to partner minority girls with professional women.
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