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National report, local non-profits find increase in volunteering
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Turlock Salvation Army volunteer Maria Rolon sorts donations in the nonprofits food pantry. - photo by Journal file photo

Helping neighbors in need has long been seen as one of the cornerstones of this nation. Recently, there has been a resurgence in community service. The volunteer rate has been rising nationally for years, with more Americans working together to help make their communities better places to live and work.

According to a new report released by the Corporation for National & Community Service, more Americans  — 64.3 million — volunteered in 2011 than in the past the five years, an increase of 1.5 million more volunteers than 2010.

Altogether, Americans volunteered approximately 7.9 billion hours with formal organizations in 2011, according to CNCS report. People volunteer for a variety of reasons, found the report and local non-profit organizations.

“Volunteering provides an economic opportunity for people who are trying to get their foot in the door for job opportunities,” said Jenny Gee, administrative assistant for Turlock's Community Continuum College.  “We see volunteers that are college graduates and young adults who are building their skills by networking and meeting new people. Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.”

Volunteers are the glue that holds a community together, making a difference in the lives of many — including their own, said Major Debi Shrum of the Turlock Salvation Army Corps.

“Volunteering can transform our own lives,” said Shrum.  “It opens up your eyes and makes you aware of the needs of the community.  Sometimes when times are really tough, as an organization, we do a good job of promoting the need.  People do not like to hear that others may be homeless or going hungry.”

No matter the reason for volunteering, now more than ever the help is needed with nonprofits facing an increasing demand for their services.

 “We couldn’t physically exist without our volunteers,” said Shrum.  “Our fellow Turlock volunteers are very special to us because they see the need of the community and go leaps and bounds to help out and make a difference in the lives of others.

"There are many needs out there and volunteers can help in significant ways. Find something what works for you. Your service can make a difference."