June 3, 2009 > California Volunteers
By Meredith Eidem
"It took only six hours for an empty lot in Fullerton in Orange County to become a playground because 400 people volunteered" Jairo Moncada, spokesperson for California Volunteers, said energetically as he told of one of many successes the organization California Volunteers has been having.
Its mission is to increase the number and impact of Californians engaged in service and volunteerism. One hundred thousand children will benefit from the twelve new playgrounds that have been built in nine counties with the help of 4,000 volunteers.
There are many people who have thought about volunteering, but have not been able to do so because they just do not know where to start.
Now, taking the first step is as easy as going online to californiavolunteers.org because it is the largest and most sophisticated statewide online matching network in the country.
Local volunteer centers are filtered to them so that all a person has to do is give his zip code and his area of interest such as health, education, environment, senior care, and the opportunities will appear.
Two million dollars in federal grant funding launched a community preparedness initiative improving the disaster and emergency readiness for California, and don't forget the Cesar E. Chavez afterschool service clubs in thirty-eight cities.
In fact, there were 45,000 volunteer opportunities in 2006 which had a meaningful impact at the community level, addressing critical challenges. This translates to 858 million hours of volunteer work, which is valued at more than $17.4 billion.
"Once a person gets started he will see that there are so many options out there. It's a great way to network, and to increase job skills" said Moncada.
California is the first state in the nation to have a Secretary of Service and Volunteers, a member of the governor's cabinet. Karen Baker, of California Volunteers, was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger in February of 2008.
She was previously a director of innovation at Share Our Strength, a managing partner for Valley Vista, and the Deputy Director of Americorps VISTA which paired with California Volunteers to bring 52 programs and $26 million in grant money to this state.
Now, Baker plays a vital role in coordinating local volunteer efforts in times of disaster such as the San Francisco Bay oil spill and helping those who were displaced in the firestorms. She also is a key to building a service force of people willing to give of their time, energy, and talents in many other areas including tutoring disadvantaged youth.
"Californians who donate their time to selflessly serve others exemplify the spirit that our great state stands for" said the governor.
A one percent increase in the number of Californians who volunteer would equal approximately 365,000 new volunteers. This translates to nearly $1 billion in service to the state.
They say what comes around goes around. This proves to be true with volunteering because the Corporation for National and Community Service reported in April of 2007 that "Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer."
The benefits are two-fold. For those who participate and feel the satisfaction as they create tangible advances for their communities now, the benefits may pay off later in their lives as well. There is a place to start: californiavolunteers.org