Rapid City Chamber of Commerce

South Dakota ranks fifth in volunteerism

 – By Rapid City Chamber

Cathie Block is one of the many reasons that South Dakota ranks fifth in the nation for its high volunteer rate.

Block is among the more than 37 percent of state residents who volunteered between 2008 and 2010, helping the state earn its Top 5 ranking in the 2011 Volunteering in America report issued Tuesday by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

South Dakota volunteers served nearly 23 million hours annually between 2008 and 2010, service time that is valued at $499 million, according to the federal agency responsible for the United We Serve program and for 5 million volunteers in Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and the Learn and Serve America programs.

Baby boomers in South Dakota had an even more impressive volunteer rate -- 42.3 percent -- which earned them a No. 3 ranking nationwide among their age group, people born between 1945 and 1961.

Block, 63, belongs to that generation. She has been volunteering at Rapid City Regional Hospital as an office assistant to the director of volunteers for three years. She typically volunteers once a week for four to six hours at a time. Like many volunteers, she does it to help herself stay busy in retirement and to help others. And she is not surprised by South Dakota's high volunteerism rate.

"There's a lot of people here who are very caring and giving,so it's only natural," she said.

Nationwide, Utah had the highest volunteerism rate of 44.5 percent, followed by Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, which had rates nearly identical to South Dakota's. There was nearly 8.1 billion hours of community service valued at $173 billion in the U.S. during the three-year time span covered in the report.

The Corporation for National and Community Service recognized the HELP!Line Center in Sioux Falls as an important volunteer resource for the state.

The help line connects people in the Black Hills region and other places with services that they need or with volunteer opportunities at nonprofit organizations in their communities. The 211 line provides service to callers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As volunteers fill critical voids in their community's infrastructure, state and local leaders are taking note and working with them as key players in driving community solutions. The Help!Line Center is one of several groups that has had great impact in the state, connecting volunteers with opportunities to serve in their communities, a CNCS spokesman said.

Volunteer Joyce Herbst, who moved to Sioux Falls from Rapid City two years ago, after the death of her husband, quickly found a volunteer outlet at HELP!Line's Holiday Clearing House. She has stayed involved and is now an indispensable part of the team.

"I hope I make a difference and can have a positive impact on the community," Herbst said. "Volunteering has given me a new purpose in life. It is overwhelming to see the outpouring of giving, whether it's time or resources. You don't know that special feeling volunteering can give until you are able to give of your own time to people who really need it."

"We are so proud to have played a role in making South Dakota a better place for its residents," said Sara Carothers, volunteer director at Help!Line Center. "Our work to connect individuals to resources, services and volunteer opportunities continues to strengthen our community, providing a helping hand to those who need it most."

Source: Rapid City Journal

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