Community has great passion for volunteerism

April 25, 2013 

This weekend’s Procession of the Species, dragon boat races and downtown Arts Walk events represent more than a good reason for a party. Like Pet Parade, Capital City Marathon, Lakefair, Capital City Pride or the Thurston County Fair, the Procession and Arts Walk encapsulate our community’s indefatigable spirit of volunteerism.

It takes hundreds of people dedicated to community service to dream up and stage public events such as these, and tens of thousands more to keep the lights on and the wheels turning at a measureless number of South Sound nonprofit organizations.

We have no statistics to back up this claim, but it’s hard to imagine another city in our state with more community service groups and active volunteers than the greater Olympia area. That’s saying something in a state where 34.4 percent of our residents volunteer, ranking us ninth in the U.S.

According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, Washington state has 1.83 million volunteers donating 223.8 million hours of service and $4.9 billion in financial contributions. We log 42.1 volunteer hours per resident.

Gov. Jay Inslee will honor four Thurston County volunteers today in the Ninth Annual Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards in a ceremony at the Executive Mansion. Inslee has proclaimed this week as Washington Volunteer Appreciation Week.

Angie Kelly volunteers with GRuB’s Kitchen Garden Project, and has had a major influence in developing the Gardner Mentorship program. She brings her experience as a low-income single mother and Backyard Gardens recipient to her passion for the nonprofit.

Crystal Pate has a full-time job, but donates her spare time to the Advancement Via Individual Determination program at Olympia High School. Proving that community service also benefits those who volunteer, Pate has discovered a passion for education and has enrolled in the Masters in Teaching program at The Evergreen State College.

Alison Robbins, a mentor with the Juvenile Justice and Rehabilitation Mentor Program, maintains the bond with young women she mentors at the Echo Glen Children’s Center long after their release.

Hollie Smith’s experience with animals led her to the Thurston County Emergency Management program a year ago, where she created a countywide Animal Response Coalition, and is now busy writing an updated section of the county’s Emergency Management Plan.

While those four are in the spotlight today, volunteers all over the South Sound – at community health centers or scouting troops or athletic teams or arts organizations – are providing countless acts of service. It’s simply in our Northwest nature.

We answered President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call during the Great Depression of the 1930s to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, and President John F. Kennedy’s call in the 1960s to “ask what you can do for your country” that gave rise to the Peace Corps.

Earlier this year, the Peace Corps reported The Evergreen State College placed high in its rankings for the number of students who volunteer. The University of Washington, Western Washington University and Gonzaga University produced more Peace Corps volunteers than any other U.S. school in their categories.

We hail the four among us being honored today, and tip our hats to the unfathomable number of anonymous volunteers quietly doing good and necessary work all across the South Sound. At the tail end of the Great Recession, their work is more important than ever.

That volunteerism thrives locally and globally gives us promise that the human spirit will endure and prevail.

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