More People Than Ever Give the Gift of Time

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Volunteering has reached a five year high nationally. The Corporation for National and Community Service found one in four Americans regularly take time out of their busy lives to help others. The same is true locally, Iowa ranks third highest for the number of volunteers.

Last year, for example, 2,000 people volunteered through the United Way of East Central Iowa, that's twice as many compared to just four years ago.

Every week, Abbie Smith takes an afternoon off to drive her car around Cedar Rapids delivering food to home-bound seniors. "I simply felt the need to do something more in the community, to give back all the blessings I have been given," said Smith.

About a year ago, Abbie, who works from home, was looking for a way to make a difference when she came came across an ad in the church bulletin looking for Meals on Wheels drivers. "It's a wonderful opportunity, I would hope more people would volunteer to do it," said Smith.

Abbie is part of one of the largest groups contributing to the growth in volunteerism.

"The baby boomer generation is reaching a stage of their life have more time to give back looking for ways to be part of the community," said Leslie Wright, Vice President of Community Building for United Way of East Central Iowa. While more people than ever are giving a helping hand, it still isn't enough to meet the need. "We have never filled every opportunity. We encourage everyone whether you have an hour, a day, or more, to give," said Wright.

You may discover, as Abbie Smith did, lending a hand touches the heart. "They give you more than you can give them," said Smith.

In addition to the baby boomer generation United Way cited two other major factors for the spike in volunteering:

-Locally, the flood urged many to reach out and help their neighbors outside of just the clean up efforts.
-Many corperations are also encouraging their employees to become engaged in the community through volunteering.
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