It’s National Volunteer Week and for communities across the nation this week brings the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the value of volunteerism.
Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week demonstrates the power of volunteerism to bring people together for positive change. Each year during National Volunteer Week, along with our partners we host events including appreciation parties, recognitions, and volunteer projects all with the goal of highlighting the tremendous work completed by local volunteers.
This year, during National Volunteer Week we are celebrating the record achievement of our volunteers.
Our doors opened in 1967, when three local social workers inspired by their passion for helping others, set up shop at a loaned office space in downtown Santa Cruz to create a volunteer program that would lift up residents in need.
These three women launched a powerful movement of local people working together to solve local problems, and every year, more and more people walk through our doors with a desire to transform our community for good. Due to the long-term dedication and commitment of volunteers, we have grown from 3 founding volunteers to 4 facilities county-wide, 18 programs, and an ever growing list of local folks who help meet the needs of fellow residents.
We are proud to share that our Volunteer Center family is now 15,000 volunteers strong.
While we may currently find ourselves in a climate that is at times both polarized and deeply divisive, instead of retreating inward – people, and particularly young people, are reaching out in record numbers with the desire to connect, stand up for their values, and create positive change.
This is incredibly uplifting to witness.
Millennials now comprise about 30% of our volunteer pool and nearly every AmeriCorps member who has given a year of service with us over the past 12 years has been a young professional and emerging leader.
Nationally, individuals born between 1980 and 2000 are outpacing all other generations in their willingness to volunteer and more than 70% of millennials state they volunteer regularly.
It gives us great hope to see the next generation stepping in to invigorate and bolster our base of volunteers. Our community would simply not function at the level that it does without volunteers. The young people we connect with through the Volunteer Center, have such a deep concern for the quality of life of all community members and a strong desire to make authentic, impactful connections.
Volunteerism is the great equalizer. It creates an intersection for people of all generations and demographics to build common bonds. Everyday we get to see the power of a multi-generational community learning, stretching, and innovating together.
Among those who have chosen to partner with us is Volunteer Center AmeriCorps Alumni Odessa Burkett, age 27. As a life-long volunteer she finds that volunteering is the perfect way to meet new people of all ages, contribute to a meaningful cause, and feel a part of a community working towards something greater.
“I decided to join AmeriCorps to give back to others and also find a community of my own. In this day and age, we are more connected than ever before with technology, yet we can also feel detached from real human connections. This paradox led me to pursue a meaningful opportunity where I would be able to make a difference in peoples’ lives and feel fulfilled by doing impactful work,” states Burkett.
“Before doing AmeriCorps, I worked in the corporate world, now I work in higher education supporting non-traditional students and am pursuing my own heart-centered creative projects. My time at the Volunteer Center showed me that a group of passionate kind-hearted people can truly make change,” continues Burkett.
During her time serving as an AmeriCorps Member, Odessa helped recruit hundreds of volunteers for the Volunteer Center Adopt a Family Project, the Human Race, and local days of service.
Individuals like Odessa, demonstrate that if given the right tools and the opportunity, people are quite effective at making a difference.
We look forward to thanking Odessa and other volunteers during National Volunteer Week.
Over the next two weeks, in partnership with city and county leaders we will honor volunteers who have provided exemplary service to our City and County Government through our programs CityServe and the Volunteer Initiative Program.
We will also host a Volunteer Appreciation Party on Wednesday, April 17th at the Volunteer Center (1740 17th Ave, Santa Cruz) from 5:30 PM-7:30 PM.
We invite all volunteers who would like to connect with Volunteer Center programs to attend. RSVP online via our National Volunteer Week Page or call 831-427-5070.
And if you are still searching for that perfect volunteer match we are always here to help.
We provides in-person, phone, and electronic matching services to connect individuals with the perfect fit for their time, skill, and interest. Match Specialists will work with you to find a volunteer position that is tailored to your individual need. Check out your options for volunteer matching here.