Every day in Florida, countless volunteers serve in schools, mentoring and tutoring the most vulnerable children. They serve at senior centers, state parks and even in homes providing meals to homebound individuals and caring for those with unique abilities. They make communities safer, stronger and healthier.
Together with Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Cabinet, leaders in the Florida Senate and House and mayors and county executives across the Sunshine State, we say “Thank you” to the millions of Floridians who serve their neighbors.
Volunteer Florida serves as the governor’s lead agency for service and volunteerism, administering millions of dollars to grantees across the state, promoting volunteerism and mobilizing residents to serve.
Over the past year, Volunteer Florida’s AmeriCorps grantees and partners served a total of 1,895,708 hours, a value of $40 million. In addition to direct service in Florida communities, our AmeriCorps members — 1,300 strong — worked to identify new volunteers. As a result, Volunteer Florida’s AmeriCorps members trained 7,853 new volunteers, who served almost 50,000 hours.
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The impact of volunteerism illustrates why Florida’s state and local government leaders are increasingly turning to volunteers as a cost-effective strategy to address local challenges. Volunteers provide services that would otherwise cost taxpayer dollars.
We’re also becoming smarter about the way we maximize volunteer service. Florida is embracing a strategic type of volunteerism that expands the impact of community organizations, such as local the Boys & Girls Clubs or food pantries, by leveraging professionals’ skills. From accountants to IT and management consultants, skills-based volunteers use their professional experience to strengthen the operations of nonprofits. At the same time, the individual serving as a volunteer develops his or her leadership capabilities.
The professional development that individuals gain from volunteering is also a big benefit to those also seeking a job. It makes sense: Volunteerism helps job seekers learn new skills, expand their networks and take on leadership roles. Now, we have data to back it up. Volunteers living in rural areas have a 55-percent higher likelihood of finding employment than job-seekers who do not volunteer.
Volunteers without a high-school diploma are 51 percent more likely to find employment, and volunteers have a 27-percent higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. 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 conditions.
Volunteering is good for our communities, and it’s good for the people who serve.
Chester W. Spellman , CEO, Volunteer Florida, Tallahassee