Volunteer spirit still strong in hearts of many Americans

Private citizens join ranks with employees from a wide range of corporations in a host of programs designed to boost the volunteer ranks. Participants report that full community support is invaluable to success of the volunteer programs.

Americans continue to volunteer time, effort, and resources for an astounding variety of causes and concerns. Each day greater numbers of them demonstrate that they are involved and caring people.

Ernie Moore, a technical administrator for W. R. Grace in New York, spends hours of his time away from his job volunteering his expertise for the Bronx Frontier Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization trying to restore and develop a devastated area in the South Bronx. At present, he is also volunteering his services to Discovery House, a rehabilitation center for young adults who are addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Ken Gross, who works in the video communications department of Avon Products Inc., devotes hours each week to Interim Homes for Teenagers, and Friends of the International Center, in Princeton, N.J. He has also coached the Princeton Pee Wee Hockey team.

''Giving financial contributions is worthwhile,'' he says, ''but it is more satisfying to me to actually help someone - a teen-ager in trouble, perhaps, or a person new to this country. My volunteer efforts have been beneficial to my family, too, especially my two boys. They have enjoyed introducing America to students from overseas, and have been supportive in my work with troubled teens.''

Thousands of other employees give generously and regularly of their time and skills. Some teach English to foreigners or tutor children. Some raise funds for the restoration of Central Park. Others work with senior citizens or the disabled, knit for the Seaman's Institute, or serve as volunteer firemen, policemen, and emergency radio operators.

Many work with Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, or with boys' clubs. Many spend hours each week with the youth groups of their churches, tutor schoolchildren, or supervise Little League teams. Others give time and energy to nonprofit dance and theater groups.

One young woman who gives much time to such cultural activities says, ''I love to help these community groups, but they also give me greater exposure to the arts.''

Now, with the encouragement of President Reagan, there appears to be a mandate for business, industry, agencies, and organizations to expand their involvement in volunteerism.

Numerous corporations are now helping their employees to become better and more effective volunteers. They are, through coalitions, networking among themselves to see how they can best encourage individual as well as corporate giving.

Joan Clark, community affairs manager of Avon, is president of the Corporate Volunteer Coordinators Council here, a coalition of more than 30 major New York City corporations that recognize the importance of volunteerism and have well-established employee volunteer programs.

In her own position, Ms. Clark supervises her company's employee volunteer support program, matching-gifts program, and in-kind donation of company services and resources. She also plans and conducts an annual volunteer party at which Avon employee volunteers are recognized and awarded.

Although many companies have made volunteerism a corporate responsibility for many years, this New York corporation council, established in the early 1970s, was the first such organization of its kind in the United States. It has become the model for many others across the country. Members in New York include RCA Corporation, the New York Stock Exchange, McGraw-Hill Inc., J. C. Penney, J. P. Stevens, IBM, Exxon, Honeywell, Chemical Bank, and CBS.

The purpose of the council is to promote employee volunteering and to serve as a forum and corporate resource for nonprofit agencies that utilize volunteers. It serves as a clearinghouse of information on volunteer issues and programs, to help promote and expand the role of corporations in volunteerism.

Annual dues are $100. Meetings are held monthly, and there are special workshops and seminars on corporate volunteer programs.

This council has compiled a how-to manual called ''Building a Corporate Volunteer Program,'' which is subtitled a ''guide to developing and operating a program to involve your company volunteers in community services, written by some people who have done it.'' It is available for $15 from the Corporate Volunteer Coordinators Council, c/o Mayor's Voluntary Action Center, 61 Chambers Street, New York, N.Y. 10007.

Recently a National Council on Corporate Volunteerism has been formed to serve as a national resource for the development and expansion of corporate volunteer programs and a nationwide clearinghouse of information. The mailing address for the national council (of which Joan Clark of Avon is chairwoman) is: Volunteer, 1111 North 19th Street, Suite 500, Arlington, Va. 22209.

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