One of the biggest issues facing organizations primarily run by volunteer groups throughout the Adirondacks is that people just can’t find the time to volunteer. Between jobs and other family responsibilities, many people don’t think there is any time leftover to commit to volunteering.
Yet, what your time can do for others has tremendous value.
It makes business sense for organizations to sign up volunteers. A 2010 Volunteering in America study estimated that an hour of volunteering was worth $26. And volunteer firefighters save localities about $129.7 billion every year in the U.S.
Firemen’s Association of the State of New York President David Jacobowitz said that statewide studies have shown that if all volunteer fire protective services were funded by taxpayers, it would add about $2.8 billion in labor costs and $4.4 billion in equipment, structural changes, fire vehicle value, and general operational costs per year.
Not-for-profit groups are faced with the realities of relying on volunteers for their survival. In the end, if enough volunteers cannot be found, some smaller groups — such as local museums — may have to cut hours or even close.
Fire departments are faced with similar challenges. In 2011, for example, the Blue Mountain Lake Volunteer Fire Department was faced with closure due to the decline in volunteers. With the help of the community, which overwhelmingly wanted the fire department to stay active, new members joined and the fire department was saved.
Many local fire and rescue departments have dramatically smaller squads than when the current senior members began. According to a report by the National Volunteer Fire Council, the number of volunteer firefighters has dropped 14 percent since 1984. While the number of new volunteers is going down, the age of current volunteers is increasing and the volume of emergency calls remain the same.
A majority of the agencies in need of volunteers rely on retirees, many of whom bring a variety of talents from their years in the workforce. Yet, with vacations, “company” and other obligations, volunteers are not always a reliable option to replace paid workers. Therefore, more volunteers are always needed to fill in when others can’t make a shift because they are not available.
We encourage everyone — retirees, those in the workforce and teenagers — to volunteer, even if it’s only a few hours a week.
By helping the local animal shelter, food bank or other small organization, you are helping your neighbors in need. There’s always a little time to help.
Only 18.5 percent of New Yorkers volunteered in 2010 compared to the national average of 26.6 percent. According to Kathleen Snow, development director of North Country Regional Volunteer Center, New York state ranked dead last — 50 out of the 50 states — for active volunteerism.
During a time of crisis, those in the Adirondacks have proven when there is an imminent need, such as the disaster left in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, they can accomplish great things. Snow said many people called into the office to find out how they could help and have continued to help through the Long Term Recovery group created to continue to help after FEMA left the area. The group includes members of the Mental Health Association, the Salvation Army and Project Hope.
Floodwaters or not, the need for your time and effort in the community is ever present.
For more information on how you can help the people in your community, call the United Way volunteer help line at 211 or visit one of your local organizations — fire departments, hospitals, libraries, chambers of commerce, museums, social groups, etc.
By volunteering, you are giving back, and your time is greatly appreciated.
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