Volunteers Enhance Services And Make Community Efforts Possible

November 20, 2017

Americans have a long history of volunteering and hold community service as a hallmark of civic life. Militias that formed during the Revolutionary War and our country’s first fire departments, for example, were made possible by volunteers who saw a need and organized to serve a cause. People through the ages at their own accord have volunteered for the greater good. At no time is this honored tradition of volunteerism more evident in our country than during the holiday season.

During this time of year, people of all ages are out ringing the bell for the Salvation Army or collecting items to send to soldiers. From serving community dinners for the holidays to visiting a lonely neighbor, volunteers can be found working together to make their communities warmer and brighter. These many efforts offer hope for our future and provide a better quality of life for the volunteer and for those who are assisted by their service.

Some have tried to place a value on volunteer services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates New Yorkers contributed $14.6 billion worth of volunteer services with roughly 3.1 million people providing an estimated 556 million hours of volunteer service. In Oswego County, the local Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) estimates that each year nearly 400 volunteers in their program contribute more than 50,000 hours of service which is estimated to equal $1.4 million in labor. In Onondaga County, 435 RSVP volunteers contributed more than 62,000 donated hours of services in 2016 which equaled $1.6 million in labor.

Volunteer efforts throughout the region also help save on health care and nursing home costs. A main focus of RSVP of Onondaga County is to keep seniors in their homes. To stay in their homes, seniors often need assistance obtaining the proper nutrition, getting their prescriptions, and getting to medical appointments. Through a network of more than 200 volunteers who commit 4 hours or more a month, Meals on Wheels and Friends in Service Here (an all-volunteer ride service) assist in delivering hot meals and providing medical transportation. These volunteers are essential to providing these services for thousands of people each year that might otherwise not have a healthy meal or see their doctors.

Many organizations and churches are in need of volunteers. If you are unsure of who to contact, the United Way acts as a clearinghouse for volunteers of all ages and can match those willing to help with organizations in need. The Red Cross, local food pantries, the Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities are just a few of the organizations who can use volunteers. In Onondaga County, residents can contact the United Way of Central New York by calling (315) 428-2211. In Oswego County, residents can call (315) 593-1900. In Jefferson County, residents can call (315) 788-5631. For those 55 and older wishing to volunteer, Oswego County RSVP can be reached at 315-312-2317. In Onondaga County, RSVP can be reached at 315-424-6079.

These acts of selflessness change lives and help improve our communities. Their service also fosters a sense of community and helps fill needs that would otherwise not likely be addressed. If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@nyassembly.gov or by calling (315) 598-5185. You may also find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.