Niagara Gazette

Columns

April 29, 2014

CONFER: Where are the volunteers?

Niagara Gazette — Have you ever wondered why it seems like you see the same people engaged in the efforts of numerous non-profits, churches, fire companies and youth organizations within your community? It’s not an illusion. Those tireless souls really are involved in everything. They not only want to be, they have to be — because no almost one else is giving up their time.

For a state and a people that pride themselves on being leaders, New Yorkers, as a rule, sure do a poor job of showing it.

The Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship produce an annual report that looks at volunteerism rates across the nation. The Empire State ranks 50th, with just 20.6 percent of its residents volunteering. Now, compare that to first-ranked Utah (43.8 percent) and our neighbors like Vermont (34.4 percent) and Pennsylvania (26.7) percent.

It’s a bit unsettling to realize that observations about heavily engaged volunteers aren’t anecdotal and really do emphasize the lack of community pride in New York. Think about it: Only 1 out of every 5 residents cares enough about our neighbors and our neighborhoods to lend a hand.

The lack of participation is pretty universal when you break down the demographics. Only 18.1 percent of older adults volunteer, as compared to 22.7 percent of Generation Xers, 16.3 percent of young adults, 17.9 percent of college students and 20 percent of teenagers. Our highest rates of volunteerism come from parents (25.9 percent) veterans (25.4 percent) and baby boomers (24.2 percent).

Even though the parental participation rate is fairly high versus the rest of New Yorkers, it still lags nationally where the median is 36 percent, topped by a whopping 52.8 percent of parents who are engaged in Utah. New York, just as in its overall rankings, sits in 50th place.

What does that say about New York parents? Worse yet, what do our overall numbers say about our state in general?

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