The kids are alrightPublished 12:14am Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Who says kids these days aren’t good for anything? Well, quite a few people.
According to research from Volunteering in America, part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, 63.4 million Americans volunteered last year in their communities — 1.6 million more than in 2008. The states with the highest volunteer rates were, in consecutive order, Utah, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Alaska.
In 2009, 26 percent of teens ages 16 to 19 volunteered, slightly up from 2008. Although the trend is down from most of the decade, the lowest rates of volunteering were in 2007 and 2008.
So what were teens volunteering for? The majority were fundraising, followed by collecting and distributing food, general labor and mentoring youth. Most donated their time and talent in school settings as well as churches, social services and hospitals.
The Star has published six stories from Dec. 1 through today (seven issues) involving local people volunteering to help needy families; five of those stories featured youth organizing food and clothing drives or other events to help out other kids during the holidays.
The Niles Wal-Mart hosted the annual Shop with a Cop event over the weekend. Children are selected to shop for gifts while accompanied by local police officers and firefighters.
“Most of the time, the children are looking to buy not for themselves, but most of the time the children are looking to buy for the moms and dads and sisters and brothers and grandmas and grandpas,” Mary Jane Davis, community relations coordinator at Wal-Mart, said. “Most of the time we have to encourage them to buy something for themselves.”
Nationally, kids are not volunteering as much as they did in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks; however, they are still volunteering more than their parents did at their age, the Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reported.
With unemployment rates high, adults typically volunteer more time, given they have more of it. Charitable giving is also down, as most non-profits report, which also is expected with a slow economy. When people can’t give monetarily, they will give their time instead. In fact, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, charitable giving was down last year by 3.6 percent — the first decline since 1987.
Studies have shown that many more people would volunteer if they knew where to access that information and what ways they can help contribute to charities or causes.
To learn more about volunteering for children, adults and families in the Niles area, visit the Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan online at volunteerswmi.org; call 683-5464; or visit its office in downtown Niles at 210 East Main St.
Katie Rohman is the managing editor of the Niles Daily Star, Off the Water, Cassopolis Vigilant and Edwardsburg Argus. She can be reached at (269) 687-7713 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.