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Report shows that Mainers volunteer—a lot

The economy and gas prices may have been a challenge this year, but Maine citizens remained committed volunteers, according to “Volunteering and Civic Life in America,” the most comprehensive annual report charting volunteer activity in the U.S.

Nearly 350,000 people in Maine contributed $1 billion in time and talent to local activities, ranging from collecting and distributing food (26.7 percent of volunteers) to offering pro bono professional and management services to supporting local programs (21.5 percent of volunteers). The rate of volunteering earned Maine a rank of 12th among all states and the District of Columbia, a move up of four places from the 2011 report.

There report held several good pieces of news for Maine:

1) The rate of volunteering among teenagers (44 percent) places Maine number one in the ranking of states. Like exercise and many other habits, volunteering and engagement in community or civic life are habits that, if formed early, last a lifetime. Equally important is the fact that involvement in community life as a service volunteer rather than service recipient supports positive youth development.

2) Maine’s strong showing with regard to volunteering by college students (37 percent of students, sixth highest in the nation) is followed by a strong rate of volunteering among young adults just beyond college age. The rate of volunteering among young adults (34 percent) earned Maine a rank of number two in the nation.

3) For the first time, the report looked at the rate of volunteering by parents and confirmed that Maine parents volunteer at a significantly higher rate (44 percent) than any other group except teenagers. This placed Maine sixth nationally and number one in New England.

4) Volunteer retention, the ability of a volunteer program to keep someone recruited until they’ve completed the assignment, finally hit 70 percent after many years of showing 32 percent or more of volunteers leaving programs early. The Maine Commission for Community Service and its volunteer center partners have worked hard in this area, providing leaders of volunteer programs with the management skills to support volunteers’ success.

“Maine people take pride in their reputation of being involved in community life,” said Drew Matlins, chair of the Maine Commission for Community Service. “At the same time, this report gives us valuable insight into our strengths and vulnerabilities as the population of our state ages. A billion dollars of pro bono work is an asset we need to ensure grows in size and impact. It takes the same cultivation as any local cash asset.”

“The evidence is in, and it shows what we have always known—that Maine is a state of neighbors helping neighbors,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “No one group or entity or person can do this alone. I’m especially pleased to see that Maine’s teenagers and young people are so committed to contributing in their communities.”

On a nationwide level, the report shows the volunteer rate reaching its highest level since 2006. More than 64 million Americans – roughly one in four adults – volunteered approximately 8 billion hours, valued at $171 billion. In addition, two out of three citizens nationally (65 percent or almost 144 million citizens) engaged in informal volunteering by doing favors for and helping out their neighbors, an increase of nearly 10 percentage points from last year.

“Volunteering and civic engagement are the cornerstone of a strong nation,” said Wendy Spencer, chief executive officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that administers AmeriCorps and Senior Corps and leads the federal effort on volunteering. “We have a prime example of the importance of people working together in the Northeast, where volunteers have really stepped up to support recovery and relief efforts from Hurricane Sandy.”

The annual volunteering report has become a useful tool for elected officials, civic leaders, and nonprofit executives, who recognize not only the economic impact of an engaged community, but also the relationship between citizen involvement in problem-solving and community resiliency in hard times. These officials and leaders use the report as a tool to develop strategies to mobilize more Americans in service to address local needs and problems.

The report is part of the most comprehensive study of volunteering and civic engagement across the country. The data is gathered annually through the Current Population Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Selected supplements collect data on the volunteering and civic activities of Americans age 16 and older for volunteering and 18 and older for the civic supplement. Volunteers are considered individuals who performed unpaid volunteer activities through or for an organization.

The Corporation issues the report, in partnership with the National Council on Citizenship, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Bureau for Labor Statistics, as part of its efforts to expand the reach and impact of America’s volunteers. The report includes information for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., more than 50 major metropolitan areas, and more than 140 other cities, including Bangor and Portland.

The Maine Commission for Community Service builds capacity and sustainability in Maine’s volunteer and service communities by funding programs, developing managers of volunteers and service learning practitioners, raising awareness of sector issues, and promoting service as a strategy to resolve local problems. For more information, see www.maineservicecommission.gov.

For an overview of Maine’s volunteering and civic health data, visit the ranking section of VolunteeringInAmerica.gov.

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