Every day in Florida, volunteers serve at schools, senior centers, state parks, and non-profits. They mentor and tutor vulnerable students, restore Florida’s precious natural resources, provide meals to homebound individuals, and work with those with unique abilities. They make our communities safer, stronger and healthier.
Volunteer Florida is proud to recognize April as Florida Volunteer Month. Together with state and local leaders across the Sunshine State, we stand together and say “thank you” to the millions of Floridians who serve their neighbors.
We also celebrate Florida Volunteer Month by promoting volunteerism across the state. While we encourage service all year long, Florida Volunteer Month is a great time to get started if you’re not already volunteering.
As Florida’s lead agency for national service and volunteerism, Volunteer Florida administers funding for Florida’s AmeriCorps programs, in which individuals dedicate a year to serving in schools, non-profits, and community organizations. Thanks to our relationships with local, state, and federal partners, Volunteer Florida puts approximately 1,300 AmeriCorps members to work in over 30 Florida organizations from the Panhandle to the Keys.
Over the last year, Volunteer Florida’s AmeriCorps grantees and partners served 1,690,773 hours, a value of $36 million. In addition to direct service in Florida communities, our partners recruited an additional 15,759 volunteers, who served 221,120 hours – a value of $4.8 million. We’re also proud to work with the Florida Association of Volunteer Resource Management and Florida’s Volunteer Centers, which connect Floridians with opportunities to serve in 37 Florida counties.
Working with volunteers, AmeriCorps members, and community organizations allows us to achieve a triple bottom line: Volunteer Florida invests in AmeriCorps members and volunteers, who receive job training and lifelong learning; in organizations so that they can serve more Floridians; and in communities by making their nonprofits stronger.
Our success depends on volunteers – leveraging their skills to address poverty, illiteracy, violence, and the dropout crisis.
Another example of the power of volunteerism is in the field of emergency management and disaster response. As Florida’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during, and after disasters, we see first-hand the power of neighbors serving neighbors in times of crisis.
Most recently, volunteers have been on the ground in the Panhandle getting families and businesses back on their feet following two tornados just 15 days apart. We’ve also coordinated volunteer teams in the Panhandle and Pasco County after devastating flooding in both regions.
We know that volunteerism helps job seekers learn new skills, expand their networks, and take on new leadership roles. In fact, volunteers without a high school diploma have a 51 percent higher likelihood of finding employment.
Volunteers living in rural areas have a 55 percent higher likelihood of finding employment. Volunteering is associated with an increased likelihood of finding employment for all volunteers regardless of a person’s gender, age, ethnicity, geographical area, or the job market. In addition to benefitting job-seekers, volunteerism affects those seeking meaningful work following retirement.
Also, Florida’s state and local government leaders are increasingly turning to volunteers as a cost-effective strategy to address local challenges.
From the occasional church project or neighborhood clean-up to school mentoring or Guardian ad Litem, the opportunities are as diverse as the individuals who serve. Consider, for example, the little girl who needs a positive role model who can encourage her to graduate high school, or the young man who wants to work, but needs assistance with his resume. Think of the senior who has no way to leave her house for food or companionship, or the veteran who is returning home and needs access to health care and transportation. The possibilities are limitless and the rewards are immeasurable.
Volunteering is good for our communities, and it’s good for the individuals who serve. We are proud to recognize April as Florida Volunteer Month.
Remember: It is never too late to starting serving, and Florida Volunteer Month is the perfect time to start.
Volunteer Florida is the Governor’s lead agency for volunteerism and national service in Florida, administering more than $31.7 million in federal, state, and local funding to deliver high-impact national service and volunteer programs in Florida.
Volunteer Florida promotes and encourages volunteerism to meet critical needs across the state. It also serves as Florida’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during, and after disasters. For more information, visit: www.volunteerflorida.org.
Chester W. Spellman is CEO of Volunteer Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.