ACROSS THE BOARD
by Dr. Ted Flickinger, CLP
According to the Independent Sector's 1994 survey "Giving and Volunteering in the United States," in the last four years there has been a continual downward trend in volunteering in America. Volunteering was down from 54 percent in 1989 to 48 percent in 1993.
What can we expect in the future? There are some who believe the youth of today are moving toward more of a private life. separating themselves from political and social issues and community involvement. I don't buy this. However, we do need to increase our efforts to instill in our youth attitudes that represent a sense of duty and connection with civic participation. Everyone must recognize the significance of volunteering. The losers in our society are those individuals who seek a lot, but offer little.
Volunteerism is an essential ingredient in a democratic way of life. This country was built on volunteers—people coming together for a common cause and helping advance their communities, state and nation. Volunteerism is the backbone of American society. It is a form of recreation because it is performed during one's free time. It contributes to the well being of others and it is personally rewarding. Many volunteers believe that donating their time eventually becomes a habit and substantially enriches their lives.
To volunteer is to contribute a piece of ourselves and to find solutions to the questions of others. People who question how they can find success solely within themselves are doomed from the start. The rewards go to people who volunteer, who have searched diligently for ways to help others. No man is an island, wrote John Donne. Yet, too many still fear the loss of self through serving others. Actually, it's the only way to find yourself.
Many of our park districts would be severely affected without the services of volunteers. In some park and recreation agencies, the annual special Olympics for people with disabilities would never take place at all. Without volunteers, we would be lost.
Citizens who volunteer and serve as park board members are the foundation of the park and recreation movement. Their volunteerism reveals a vitality of social consciousness and community responsibility. Citizen boards and commissioners keep democracy green at the roots, and our park and recreation agencies are better operated and more accountable to the public because citizens serve without compensation on park boards.
We hear about more and more people complaining about less and less time. Our time is invaluable. We need to put a greater emphasis on providing volunteer opportunities that are professional, meaningful and rewarding in order to buck this downward trend. We must teach and inspire our children to give time and energy for the benefit of their communities...our communities, now and in the future.
6 • Illinois Parks & Recreation • July/August 1995
Facts and Figures on Volunteering and Giving
How many Americans volunteer?
How much time did they donate to charitable causes?
What is the dollar value of volunteer time?
Which gender groups volunteer the most?
How many Americans "Give Five?"
How many Americans reported giving to charities?
What is the average gift?
How much do Americans contribute to charitable organizations?
Individuals................................................... $102.55 billion
According to Giving USA, the money was distributed as follows:
How many Americans "Give Five?"
All figures compiled by the INDEPENDENT SECTOR, a national coalition of more than 800 voluntary organizations, foundations and corporate giving programs with national interest and impact in philanthropy and voluntary action.
Illinois Parks & Recreation • July/August 1995 • 7
Sam S. Manivong, Illinois Periodicals Online Coordinator