The Give Back Iowa Challenge starts a week from tomorrow.  It’s an eight-week effort that runs from April 1st through the end of May, aimed at engaging Iowans in employer-supported volunteering.

Betsy Shelton, the communications and engagement officer for Volunteer Iowa, says the challenge is a chance for Iowans who volunteer to get a little recognition by tracking and reporting their hours.

“The weather is starting the get warmer, people are starting to think summer and wanting to get outside more and be more active coming out of the winter months,” Shelton says. “We see it as a really opportune time to kick off this volunteer challenge so we’re encouraging people, through their employers, to get out and help support their communities.”

This is the seventh year for the challenge. Participation in 2020 suffered due to the pandemic, but those who took part got creative with their volunteerism, making masks, delivering food, and doing yard work for neighbors. She says things are picking up this year.

“There are a lot of virtual opportunities, we also have mentoring — both youth and college and career mentoring options that are all virtual as well,” Shelton says, “so, plenty of safe, socially distant options for people who want to participate this year.”

In recent years, Iowa has ranked as one of the best states for volunteerism. Whether through churches, schools, sports, or our employers, volunteerism is a tremendous benefit for our communities and our economy, but she says it’s also good for our physical and mental health.

“You could get out and go for a walk and pick up trash while you’re walking down a walking path,” Shelton says. “Once all the snow has melted, we always tend to find a lot of litter underneath that melted snow so now would be a great time to think about that. Once we get into early April, you can log your walk time as you’re picking up trash.”

Employers are urged to register by March 31st but they can sign up at any point during the challenge. Top volunteer employers will be recognized with a visit by the governor or lieutenant governor to their workplace.