Volunteerism is Up in Northeast Arkansas

DECEMBER 23, 2003 -- POSTED AT 11:00PM


- During the holidays volunteerism is more visible, but statistics show more Americans are giving back at all times of the year. Leaders at the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U. S. Department of Labor released research which showed more than 1 out of 4 Americans did work for a charity in 2003.

This is the first year Scott Humphrey has volunteered his time. He drove to Jonesboro from Wynne to help with a gift wrapping booth. Its' proceeds benefit the Northeast Arkansas Council on Family Violence. It's the organization's largest fundraiser of the year for the community.

"It's a 45 minute drive. I just like volunteering sometimes," said Humphrey.

About 4 million more people like Scott Humphrey joined the volunteer work force from September 2002 to September 2003 bring the total to around 64 million. About 32.2% of women and 25.1% of men did volunteer work during the year, increases of 1.2% and 1.5% from 2002, respectively.

For teenagers, the rate jumped by 2.6% to 29.5%. In contrast, the volunteer rate for the group most likely to volunteer, 35 year-olds to 44 year olds, changed little: 34.7%. Meanwhile, volunteerism among parents with children under the age of 18 was more likely (37.5%) than persons with no children that age (25.0%). A higher percentage of married people (34%) donated their time compared with those who have never been married (22.8%), or have a different kind of marital status (22.5%). Whites volunteered at a higher rate (30.6%) than blacks (20.0%) and Asians (18.7%). Among those who are Hispanic or Latino, 15.7% volunteered.

There has also been a rise in volunteerism in the last year in Northeast Arkansas.

"Particularly through the Day of Caring activities. We had many more come out and work on community projects this year," explained Susan Alston, President-Elect of United Way of Greater Jonesboro's Board of Directors.

There are 14 United Way agencies which benefit from the Day of Caring, including the Northeast Arkansas on Family Violence. Wilma Maiers has been a volunteer for the organization for years. She has been donating her evenings nearly every night in December for the last 7 years to wrapping gifts for others. Maiers even uses her vacation hours during the week of Christmas to spend most of her time helping last-minute shoppers get their gifts wrapped, but more importantly to help the families in Region 8 affected by domestic violence.

Maiers said, "I'm able to use my time here to talk to people about the importance of the Council on Family Violence."

She also volunteers with Key Clubs at 3 local high schools. Her influence has helped guarantee students volunteer a few hours each day the booth is open from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.

"A key cluber brought her mom, because if she was going to be out here, then why couldn't mom come too. Kids often set the example for the rest of us," added Maiers.

She also takes time off to volunteer at MASH Bash each year to help Red Cross workers collect blood for local blood banks.

Maiers said, "I'm a believer that you should never ask people to do what you're not willing to do yourself."