Community service alive and well

Posted July 02, 2010, at 9:06 p.m.

On Sunday morning, as some of us lounge sleepily in lawn chairs, sipping hot coffee in the sun and lingering over the Sunday paper, thousands more across the state will be mixing enormous vats of pancake batter, filling coffee urns and organizing parade participants.

Some members of the Maine Troop Greeters will be wearing their electronic pagers on their hips, ready to leave backyard barbecues in order to greet U.S. soldiers should any military planes touch down at Bangor International Airport.

Volunteer firefighters and EMTs in small towns across the state will enjoy their own families while having one ear tipped slightly toward the scanner ready to respond to reports of accidents, fires or injuries.

Just like every other day in our community, things simply won’t happen without volunteers.

There would be no pancake breakfast, no community-sponsored chicken barbecues and no parades.

That’s worth remembering as we celebrate tomorrow.

Last month the Corporation for National Community Service issued its annual report regarding the state of volunteerism in the USA for 2009.

Despite the worst economic recession since the 1930s volunteerism has risen by 1.6 million participants nationwide.

Generally during hard economic times, such as what we are experiencing now, volunteerism and charitable giving decline. Last year, while charitable giving did decrease, the number of people who stepped up to serve their communities rose.

In Maine the rate of volunteerism rose 2.6 percent to 34.4 percent in 2009.

Here, 366,600 residents volunteered 51.9 million hours to civic activities and community service, according to the report, published in part on the Maine Commission for Community Service’s website.

Of the 366,600 Mainers who volunteered, 35,000 reside in Greater Bangor, which ranked 31st among 75 midsize cities throughout the country.

Maine’s volunteerism rate continues to be higher than the national average of 26.8 percent.

The state ranks fourth in the country in terms of volunteer hours each year per resident.

Logging 58.4 volunteer hours per resident, Bangor is ranked fifth within the 75 midsize cities listed in the survey.

What does that mean in terms of dollars?

The report states that last year, Mainers contributed the equivalent of $1.1 billion in service. In Greater Bangor, residents contributed $140.4 million in service.

“Americans have responded to tough economic times by volunteering in big numbers,” said Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National Community Service. “What we’re seeing is the depth of the American spirit and generosity at its best.”

The number of school-age children in Maine who volunteered time to either community service or civic activities declined last year to 41 percent. In 2005 nearly 48 percent of school-age children donated time to their communities, the report states.

In this area opportunities abound for youths interested in volunteering, whether within local municipal departments, children’s museums, hospitals, homeless shelters or soup kitchens.

The Bangor Y and the Bangor Rotary are partners in the Interact Leader’s Club, a year-round group of kids in grades six through 12 which focuses on community leadership and worldwide volunteerism.

Greater Bangor has been blessed with generations of people committed to improving community through volunteerism. Most who do volunteer are quick to note that it is they who reap the greatest benefit.

It’s important that parents encourage their children to continue in that spirit.

One need not serve in the military to be patriotic. One can simply shake the hands of those who do, sometimes stumbling out of bed on dark and cold winter nights to do so.

One does not need to be the CEO of an institution in order to make a difference. One may pour some batter at a benefit pancake breakfast, sometimes forgoing a long, lazy Sunday morning in the sun to do so.

E-mail Renee at reneeordway@gmail.com and listen to her and co-host Dan Frazell from 7 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on the radio at 103.1 The Pulse.

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