As originally published in the The State Journal Register.
For those individuals who know me personally, they know April is one of my favorite months of the year for three very specific reasons: National Volunteer Week, the Good as Gold Awards Ceremony and planning for Spring Day of Action.
As Director of Community Impact at United Way, I get to see firsthand all types of volunteerism take place, not only at our organization, but also at the organizations of our partners throughout the community.
To us volunteers are selfless, dedicated, compassionate, kind, and caring heroes making waves in our community. Most often, these heroes and heroines are behind the scenes undertaking a variety of services to help our community be a safer, healthier, happier place to live and raise a family.
From where we sit, we see volunteers fighting for the basic needs, education, financial stability, and health of every person in our community. Whether that is seeing volunteers deliver meals to the elderly, dedicating hours of service to an organization’s board of directors, supporting a fundraiser in the workplace for causes they care about; volunteers are truly making an impact.
According to the Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs, the most recent calculated value of a volunteer’s time in Illinois is $26.02 per hour.
This economic value helps local organizations maintain focus on their mission and reduces the strain on providing critical services for those in need.
Simply put, without volunteers, our local nonprofits would not be able to make the positive change we are all focused on for our community.
To put this into perspective, if we didn’t have volunteers in 2018:
• St. John’s Breadline would have needed to find an additional $130,000 to cover the 15,396 hours of service which helped them serve 176,862 meals;
• 562 local children would not have had the life-changing support of a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters;
• staff at Southeast High School would not have been able to provide the Welcome to the Real World Simulation which introduces high school students to real world expenses and budgeting each quarter; and
• thousands of patients at our local hospitals would not have been greeted with warm, friendly faces and received support to brighten their day.
Our community thrives because of the selfless efforts of those who step forward every day to donate their time and talent to worthy causes.
It is fitting that I write this column today, as April 7 is the start of National Volunteer Week; a time when, for a moment, we go above and beyond the normal notes of thanks, to celebrate our volunteers and all they have done over the last year.
One event that takes place locally which is solely focused on elevating the impact volunteers and the business sector have on the nonprofit community is the Good as Gold Awards Ceremony.
Established in 2009 to recognize the spirit and achievements of local volunteers and nonprofit organizations, this ceremony is a joint effort between the UIS Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center, the Junior League of Springfield, and the United Way of Central Illinois and will take place on April 24.
Each year I attend, I am truly inspired with all the work taking place throughout our community. It is also a very humbling experience as we realize when businesses are recognized, United Way is helping many of our local companies achieve their charitable and volunteer goals through our employee giving campaign and Day of Action.
Day of Action is a biannual event that demonstrates what we can achieve when individuals, organizations, and businesses work together.
Each year volunteers, individuals and groups, sign up to complete three hours of service on Friday, Saturday, or both days; and then we match them to local projects throughout our community.
This year’s event is on Friday, May 3, from 1-4 p.m. and Saturday, May 4, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Last year, between our spring and fall events, our community saw 561 volunteers complete 47 local projects over the course of just four days. The total value of volunteer time for 2018 Days of Action was calculated at almost $44,000.
Each year we strive to reach more people and more nonprofits than the year prior, so if you are interested in signing up, please go to volunteer.springfieldunitedway.org by Monday, April 15.
I hope you will take the time to thank a volunteer during National Volunteer Week (April 7-13); watch out for the Good as Gold insert in the Springfield Business Journal to learn more about the incredible work taking place in our community; and take the first step in becoming a volunteer extraordinaire yourself by joining us for Day of Action.
Most importantly, to any of our volunteers reading this, I would like to extend thanks on behalf of everyone here at United Way. We couldn’t do this work without your leadership, dedication, and commitment to helping people throughout our community, and for that, we are truly grateful.
Katrina Hays is the Director of Community Impact at United Way of Central Illinois. Learn more about United Way’s work in the community at www.springfieldunitedway.org, and look for columns regularly.