As Lt. Governor I chair the Utah Commission on Volunteers (COV). The COV’s mission is to improve communities through service and volunteering. It is exciting to see the volunteer service occurring all over this great state and to work with an incredible array of volunteers. Utah continues to be ranked #1 in the nation for volunteering. Almost 45% of Utahns render voluntary service, estimated to be 884,000 volunteers serving 7.1 million total hours per year. This translates into $3.8 Billion of service contributed to the economy from 2008 to 2010. (Volunteering in America Report, 2011). These figures are quite impressive, but they only represent what is “reported” and certainly grossly understate what is actually occurring in communities throughout Utah.
When we reach out to volunteer, we usually think about rather formalized service, but helping others takes place informally when people work with neighbors to address neighborhood and community needs. The Volunteering Report I mentioned earlier says in 2010, 13.6% of Utah residents volunteered informally, totaling approximately 274,689 individuals. This number seems low considering what I know of the volunteering spirit in Utah. I am sure that more than 13.6 percent of Utah residents volunteer informally.
Following the December 1st Davis County wind storm, I witnessed one of the most amazing volunteer efforts I have ever seen. Our communities were literally “buzzing” with volunteer helpers wielding chain saws and other implements, with neighbors helping neighbors, neighborhoods helping other neighborhoods, communities and church groups helping each other. The amount of work accomplished clearing downed trees and debris in a few short days was simply astounding. Strangers filled their pickups and trailers with downed tree limbs, siding sections, roof shingles and other debris to take to the dump. Blue tarps decorated the roof of house after house. It was reported that the county may not qualify for federal relief funds because of the amount of clean up that was accomplished by volunteers.
While we try to quantify the economic value of the volunteer work being done in Utah, it really can’t be measured. Moreover, what pricer can you put on the glow which comes from touching another soul, or from watching your children unselfishly give of themselves and catch the bug of helping others. And it is no small thing to embrace the loving outreach of willing friends, old and new. My wife and I had two large pine trees nearly uprooted by the winds. It took the strength of several to bring them back to upright position. I’ll never forget the men and boys who came to help us that day.
This week I attended the annual the Volunteer Recognition and Awards Banquet, held in conjunction with the annual Conference on Service. Wow! When you hear their stories, it is astounding. One lady in Morgan who is 100 years old still bakes pies (she made 20 in one day) for a community activity and volunteers daily in that fortunate little town. Volunteering comes naturally for Utahns. It is who we are, it is what we do, and it is what helps make Utah such a great state. I encourage you to visit volunteers.utah.gov to learn more about the COV and to find exciting volunteering opportunities.