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8 billion hours served and why it’s important to me

August 22, 2011
Several days ago, I came across a recent Reuters article with the headline “Americans Spent 8 Billion Hours Volunteering in 2010.” Needless to say, I couldn’t have clicked the link faster. Early into the story, I was saddened to read that the overall national rate for volunteerism declined by half a percent compared to last year. Fortunately, though, the overall number of hours of volunteering did not decrease. The article goes on to inform the reader of the top major cities whose population devotes the most time to volunteering (Minneapolis-St. Paul was #1), as well as the top states (Utah took the crown). The pride I have for America’s Finest City instantly kicked in. “I wonder where San Diego ranks among the field? And how about California?” I have yet to dig up those stats, but I’m hopeful we have done our fair share and, of course, that Volunteer San Diego will continue to play a contributing role to that sentiment. What struck me most about this piece came next. The article stated:

Partly thanks to social networking, teen volunteer rates have been significantly higher between 2002 and 2010 than they were in 1989, according to the report called “Volunteering in America.”

It attributed high teen volunteer rates to greater emphasis on service-learning in high schools, the influence of parents who volunteer and the ease of finding volunteer opportunities with the Internet.

“Technology in the broad sense of social networking has been an asset to volunteerism. I think young people are much more attuned to volunteering at an earlier age than some of us were,” Velasco said in an interview.

“They have much more social engagement and networks, and, as a result, they are just much more engaged.”

Smiling wide, I found myself feeling an overwhelming amount of joy and satisfaction.

My latest role within Volunteer San Diego has been to dive in head-first with my two peers, Ciera and James, in developing its social media presence. In its broadest scope, being a social media assistant for Volunteer San Diego means making sure the people of my community have the highest possible exposure to the various ways in which they can assist and aide those around them. Despite this clearly defined role, it is not so easy to always quantify our impact (not just yet, at least).

You see, while a very noble cause, sometimes contributing your time to the spreading of volunteerism awareness itself may not give you the same fulfilling sense of accomplishment that comes with serving meals to the less fortunate or helping children with their homework. Working almost exclusively behind the scenes and among countless keystrokes, generally this type of volunteerism can carry an inherent disconnect from the more hands-on participation that surrounds you with big smiles and even bigger hearts.

And that is where something like this article comes into play. Even with rather few words, it emphatically reassures me that technology, specifically social networking via the Internet, is playing an integral role in modern day volunteerism. More so, it excites me to know we still have an enormous amount of ground to cover and our virtual presence will continue to grow and promote the ideals of giving back to one’s community for the bettering of us all.

Ultimately, it lights me up knowing that everyone can — and does — make a difference with every little bit they give (and sometimes they don’t even know it!). While it may not seem like much to some, to me it is a reminder that any time spent volunteering is absolutely time well spent.

– Scott Schulte, Social Media Assistant

Author’s note: The Reuter’s article referenced throughout this post can be read here: America Spent 8 Billion Hours Volunteering in 2010.

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