Opinion

City's residents volunteer a lot – thanks, keep on!

We're No. 10. Hold on. That's good.

In a national ranking of 50 major U.S. cities on volunteerism, Charlotte comes out 10. We settle in behind, in order, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, Austin, Columbus (Ohio), Milwaukee, Birmingham (Ala.) and Kansas City (Mo.) Hanging onto the caboose of volunteer service are those capitals of excess – in the eyes of some – are New York and Las Vegas, with Miami dead last. Raleigh came in 33rd.

If there's an activity where we should welcome being in the top 10, it is in volunteer service. Volunteer work is evidence that people care about their neighbors and the health and welfare of the communities they reside in.

Charlotte has long been a community where residents commit to giving time and resources for civic service. Charlotte averaged 30.5 percent volunteerism in 2006. That percentage went up last year to 32.6 percent. The 403,000 volunteers put in 50.3 million volunteer hours, time estimated to be a $982 million economic contribution.

Now, that's puffing-out-your-chest worthy. The largest percent of Charlotte volunteers – nearly 31 percent – spent time tutoring or teaching. About 44 percent volunteer through religious groups or activities; about 23 percent do so through education.

Nationwide, nearly 61 million Americans volunteered in 2007, giving 8.1 billion hours of service, estimated to be worth $158 billion, according to the Volunteering in America report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Find the report at https://www.VolunteeringinAmerica.gov.

And though Charlotte saw a rise in volunteers, nationwide an estimated 22 million or one in three volunteers stopped doing so between 2006 and 2007. And it's not because they don't have the time.

Consider the amount of time volunteers and non-volunteers spend watching television. Volunteers report spending 15 hours watching TV while non-volunteers spend 23 hours doing so. That eight-hour difference adds up to more than 400 volunteer hours a year, the report said.

Volunteers make time to do this important work. They are increasingly necessary as economic difficulties push more Americans into the need category.

Don't stand on the sidelines and applaud these volunteers. Join them. It is vital to the health and prosperity of communities and the nation that people commit to such service, and that public and private entities encourage and enable their efforts.

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