Saturday, 17 November 2018 11:48

OP ED: Volunteer Efforts Brighten Holidays, Provide Health Benefits

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Volunteers are the backbone of any community organization.

The causes our local volunteers support help ensure that fewer people spend Thanksgiving alone, that children have gifts to open for the holidays, and that people have warm coats and boots for the winter. These efforts provide an opportunity for people to give back while at the same time providing assistance for those in need.

Some have tried to place a value on volunteer services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2015—the last time data was made available—New Yorkers contributed $14.6 billion worth of volunteer services with roughly 3.1 million people providing an estimated 556 million hours of volunteer service. In Oswego County, the local Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) alone estimates that each year nearly 400 volunteers in their program contribute more than 50,000 hours of service which is estimated to equal $1.4 million in labor. In Onondaga County, 435 RSVP volunteers contributed more than 62,000 donated hours of services in 2016 which equaled $1.6 million in labor.

The overall impact of volunteerism, however, is much greater. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorp and other community outreach efforts, there is a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social benefits. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not. For seniors, volunteering provides physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing. Volunteering helps our youth develop self-esteem and confidence and have a greater sense of connection to their communities.

Some may wish to volunteer but may not know where to begin or know which agencies need volunteers. A new, local service called 211CNY acts as a clearinghouse for information for a five-county region including Oswego, Jefferson, Onondaga counties. People can search for volunteer opportunities by visiting In the search bar in the middle of the page, visitors can type in “volunteer” and click on your county in a check box underneath. The search will list several opportunities and organizations that accept volunteers within the county. If you are unsure of who to contact, the United Way can match volunteers with an appropriate organization. In Onondaga County, the coordinator can be reached at 315-428-2211, in Oswego County, people can call 315-598-1900 x202 and Jefferson County residents can call 315-788-5631. For those 55 and older wishing to volunteer, Oswego County RSVP can be reached at 315-312-2317. In Onondaga County, RSVP can be reached at 315-424-6079. The Red Cross, local food pantries, the DAV van which transports veterans to medical appointments, the Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities are a few of the organizations that can always use volunteers.

Volunteering does not have to be a full-time commitment in order to be beneficial. In fact, research shows that just two to three hours per week can make the difference to both the volunteer and the cause. If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

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