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Midwest tops volunteerism list

People in Las Vegas and Riverside are among the least likely to give time to a cause, a federal study finds.

July 09, 2007|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The spirit of volunteerism is thriving in the heartland, but not so much on the coasts.

Midwesterners are more likely to volunteer their time than are people elsewhere in the United States, according to a federal study released Sunday.

The highest rates were in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, where more than four in 10 adults volunteered.

"It's really about Minneapolis' commitment to the quality of life," said Michael Weber, president and chief executive of Volunteers of America of Minnesota.

"If you look at the entire society, it says, 'We will give back to the community and take care of our society.' "

The federal Corporation for National and Community Service used Census Bureau data to determine the share of people age 16 and older who had volunteered their time in the previous year.

The study provides averages for 2004, 2005 and 2006 in the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

After Minneapolis-St. Paul were Salt Lake City; Austin, Texas; Omaha; and Seattle.

Las Vegas had the lowest volunteer rate, 14.4%. It was joined at the bottom by Miami; New York; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Riverside.

Nationally, 26.7% of adults in 2006 said they had volunteered in the previous year. That compares with 28.8% in 2005 and 20.4% in 1989.

More than a third of the people who volunteered in 2005 stopped in 2006.

"Volunteering has a leaky bucket," said Robert Grimm, an author of the report. "Many times people drop out because the activities are not challenging enough or they're not substantial enough."

In Minneapolis, Weber said his organization worked hard to make sure activities are well organized, meaningful to the community and rewarding to volunteers.

"The person goes away saying, 'I feel good; I made a difference today,' " Weber said.

The study said several demographic and social factors appeared to contribute to higher volunteer rates:

* Short commutes to work, which provide more time to volunteer.

* Home ownership, which promotes attachment to the community.

* High education levels, which increase civic involvement.

* High concentrations of nonprofit organizations providing opportunities to volunteer.

The report is posted at www.nationalservice.gov/about/volunteering/cities.asp.

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