Niagara Gazette

Opinion

April 29, 2014

CONFER: Where are the volunteers?

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — If parents aren’t volunteering, their kids won’t (proven by the statistics) and likely their own parents didn’t (proven by the statistics). We evidently have a culture in New York that sees volunteerism as something foreign.

It’s counterintuitive, because we should have one of the highest, if not just middling, participation rates based on apparent need alone. God knows so many people need help. New York is the 29th most-impoverished state; Buffalo is the third-poorest city in the United States. We rank 27th in the nation in terms of disability rate. We have the 24th greatest population of senior citizens (in terms of percentage). Twenty-three percent of New Yorkers drop out of school. There are almost 2,000 volunteer fire departments in the state.

It’s unknown if New York’s volunteerism numbers will ever improve dramatically. One would have thought that the Great Recession would have been a wake-up call. In past economic collapses, volunteerism skyrocketed because people were compelled to help those hit hardest, they had time on their hands, and people stuck closer to – and became more interested in — their communities. That didn’t happen this time. In 2009, just as the Recession started to come to an end, New York’s volunteerism rate was 19 percent, actually worse (though not much) than where we are now.

So, what can we do?

For starters, if you or your family have ever partaken in an event or club run by volunteers (Easter egg hunts, Boy Scout troops, little league teams, church school, etc.) or had a property or life saved by unpaid first responders, thank those who made that all possible. A simple “thank you” goes a long ways in validating their efforts.

Secondly, take the time to participate yourself. Make it a point to help others. Join a community organization. Assist a youth group. Go out of your way to make one’s day (if not one’s life) brighter. It’s challenging, fun and extremely rewarding. There’s an unmatched joy that’s had in giving and watching others receive the services you provide.

There’s a reason that the 20.6 percent do what they do. Let’s not let them hog all the fun.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. Email him at bobconfer@juno.com.

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