The gift of time notches a decade of growth

The effect of Sept. 11 on volunteerism cannot yet be measured. But helping out in the local community has become an increasingly popular act in the United States in recent years.

United Way of America released its State of Caring Index last week, citing a nearly 10 percent rise in volunteerism over the past decade.

"Now at a 12-year high, United Way's State of Caring Index shows that Americans do recognize the importance of lending a helping hand and pulling together," says Chris Amundsen, interim president and chief executive officer of United Way of America.

"How we responded to the most recent tragedy is proof positive that these indicators of volunteerism, charity, and civic engagement can all be raised to a new level so that we can sustain this same energy and concern as we move forward," he adds.

The top-ranked states in terms of volunteerism were: Minnesota, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The most-improved states: Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Alaska, Michigan, and Indiana.

From 1988 to 1999, volunteerism showed continued strong performance. A large percentage of the adult population was volunteering in 1999 (about 56 percent), continuing a steady trend from the late 1980s.

Although a large portion of the public volunteers, individuals have shown a tendency to spend slightly less time per week volunteering. According to Independent Sector, a group promoting philanthropic partnerships, people spent an average of 4.0 hours per week volunteering in 1989 and 3.5 hours per week in 1998.

The United Way State of Caring Index looks at long-term trends across the country and provides an overall view of how each state is performing in response to pressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

The index analyzes 32 indicators, including financial security, health, education, safety, charitable giving, voluntarism, and civic engagement.

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