Since the founding of our democracy, the ideal of community service has been an integral part of our national character. As Thomas Jefferson said, “A debt of service is due from every man to his country proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured to him.” Time and time again, our leaders have called on us to meet this challenge. And always, Americans stand ready to offer their help.
Our nation and our state are blessed with a wealth of resources and diverse, determined citizens. After every natural disaster that strikes our communities, we always hear of the generosity and selfless responses of total strangers who volunteer their time, talents, and money. We do not take that help for granted, but we know that empathy and aid will always be there.
This spirit of community makes us stronger. Every day, countless volunteers across America work to address the fundamental necessities of our people—educating our youth, protecting our environment, caring for those in need. From older Americans who help children in schools to volunteer firemen who protect our neighborhoods, these dedicated individuals bring a sense of hope and security to everyone. Their service sets an example of leadership and compassion to which we all can aspire.
These efforts also leave a positive mark on our nation’s economy. In 2012, about 64 million Americans, or 27 percent of the adult population, gave volunteer service worth $175 billion, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Without volunteers, many organizations would be unable to overcome obstacles and remain operational. Our country’s volunteer force is a great treasure, since experience teaches us that government, by itself, cannot solve all of our problems. Through volunteer work, we get the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and, in return, to enhance our own lives. In the words of an anonymous sage, “Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer.”
Social science has long touted the emotional benefits for both volunteers and those who receive their kindness. New research confirms other benefits from volunteering, as well. Individuals are more likely to gain employment if they become active community volunteers. A 2013 study reveals that volunteers have a 27 percent higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than do non-volunteers.
At times, we Arkansans find ourselves facing challenges that test our fortitude. But, even in difficult times, we know that other Arkansans will always volunteer to help their fellow citizens. Some spend a few hours every week.
Others give entire days - even years - of their lives to service. Whether you’re donating blood or donating canned goods to a local food pantry; whether you’re helping an animal rescue group or helping clean up debris from a tornado, you are making a lasting contribution to the substance and the spirit of our state’s communities. And that will only make us stronger, and our future brighter.