Volunteering is alive and well in our area

April is Volunteer Month, so I voluntarily researched.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) has voluminous data on volunteerism, more than any sane person would need. About 27 pecent of us volunteer an average of 50 hours per year. So about 63 million of us provide an estimated 8.1 billion volunteer hours. Somehow, the BLS estimates our value as $22.55 per hour — that’s $183 billion.

Volunteers are quite literally needed; it’s no exaggeration that we’d collapse without them. Think about schools, hospitals, the arts, youth sports …

But it’s more than statistics. We should pause, appreciate these contributions, think about why we volunteer, and consider volunteer opportunities ourselves. We explain it as giving back, self-fulfillment, keeping young and the like. People simply feel good volunteering.

A few things to consider during this month:

Everyone volunteers: The national data show few differences by age, sex, income level, or even, significantly, whether or not we’re employed. Nice to know.

Seniors volunteer: About half of us physically capable retirees volunteer. Contributing to society without payment is as least as noble as contributing to society for wages.

The Miami Valley volunteers: Using national averages, almost 200,000 people in the Dayton metro area most likely volunteer. Here are a wonderful local organizations I contacted:

— Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm: About 800 volunteers and 18,000 hours annually.

— Beaver Creek Wetlands Association: Last year, 144 volunteers and almost 3,300 hours.

— The Boonshoft Museum if Discovery’s 100 kid-friendly volunteers give about 6,000 hours a year.

— Dayton Art Institute: 500 volunteers, about 10,000 hours annually.

— Dayton Childrens Hospital’s 900 volunteers must seem like angels!

— Dayton History, Montgomery County’s decade-old “official historical organization,” has 300 volunteers covering multiple sites and diverse activities; 36,000 hours.

— Five Rivers MetroParks: 7,600 regular and special event volunteers, about 65,000 hours.

— Fraze Pavilion: About 50 volunteers and 1,200 hours.

— Attention taxpayers: The City of Kettering’s 1,000 volunteers log about 35,000 hours annually. My Beavercreek has about 22,000 hours of such work, and probably other cities do also.

— Our unique National Museum of the United States Air Force: About 550 volunteers and (wow!) 100,000 hours.

— Even our hidden-in-plain-sight Packard Museum has about six volunteers in its restored dealership showroom.

— 700 volunteers of the Victoria Theater Assocciation contribute about 60,000 hours annually.

Even I volunteer: Have to recognize my own — VTA and the Marianist Environmental Education Center. The latter provides educational work sessions, native plant propagation, prairie restoration, butterfly counts, etc. I always get more in educational benefit than I provide in labor.

That brings up a point: In addition to that good feeling, there are more tangible benefits to volunteering. For seniors, volunteerism keeps us active, provides continuing education, and is often a social activity. For teenagers, volunteerism in an area of interest provides education and experience, and looks great on resumes and college applications.

So thank the volunteers you run into this month. Better yet, join them.

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David Shumway is one of our regular community contributors.

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