Volunteers package Meals from the Heartland

Volunteers package Meals from the Heartland

A report released this month ranks Iowa 7th in the country for the percentage of residents who spend time volunteering. Those efforts not only benefit those in critical need, but the head of the federal agency in charge of volunteering and service says it also benefits the volunteers themselves.

Wendy Spencer is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. She says they’ve conducted research about the impact of volunteering on those who donate their time and energy. “Here’s what we’ve found, especially with our seniors and older volunteers, it’s good for your health,” Spencer said. “You live longer, you have a reduced sense of isolation, you’re happier, and you’re connecting with friends. So, there’s a personal benefit.”

People who are unemployed can also find reward in volunteer work. “We also have research that tells us if you volunteer — and you’re unemployed and looking for work — that you increase the likelihood of getting a job by 27-percent,” Spencer said. “If you live in a rural community, that likelihood jumps up to 55-percent. So, there are some benefits to get a job as well.”

The report states slightly more than 1 in 3 Iowans (34.7%) volunteered in 2013. Spencer notes the people who volunteer the most are working mothers. “Which is really interesting because they’re the busiest people I know,” Spencer said. “But, they’re very connected to their community and schools. College students are actually volunteering at a higher rate than the national average as well. That’s encouraging for our young people.”

Nationally, one in four Americans volunteered last year. Utah ranked as the top state for volunteerism. Idaho, Minnesota, Kansas, Wisconsin and Nebraska round out the top six, followed by Iowa. The report found those between the ages of 35-44 had the highest volunteer rate, while those over the age of 65 spent the most time volunteering.