As a volunteer, you can make a difference. It is an opportunity to change a life, including your own.
Since 1989, the Midwest has had the highest volunteer rate in the United States among adults age 16 years and older. Despite the challenges of a tough economic situation more Americans seem to be volunteering, showing a slight increase of about 1 million volunteers in the past few years, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
In this tough economy, young adults are finding it hard to land a job. The Labor Department reported in 2009 the employment rate of 16- to 24-year-olds has eroded to 46.6 percent -- the lowest ratio of working young Americans in that age group, including all but those in the military, since World War II.
Without a clear economic recovery plan aimed at creating entry-level jobs, the odds of many of these young adults finding work and moving out of their parents' houses are long. Young workers have been the hardest hit during the recession, in which a total of 6.9 million jobs have been lost, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
So in this tough economy, many young people are turning to volunteering as a way to keep moving forward, CNCS stated: "The fact that volunteer rates among young people held relatively steady during such a time is a positive sign for service moving forward."
Aside from volunteers providing relief to many non-profit organizations, such as Hope Haven Horse Farm in Coatesville, struggling to meet the needs of families and children, volunteers can make a difference in their community.
Mark Evans, Putnam County Extension director, noted the affect volunteers have on the 4-H community. He said volunteers have made the extraordinary success rate of Putnam County 4-H'ers possible.
"We have one of the highest 4-H completion rates," Evans said. He said he believes it's due to the positive impact of 4-H volunteers.
The Greencastle Parks and Recreation Department assistant director Troy Scott said his department uses young adult volunteers for various tasks. Middle and high school students work with the SPARKS program, which is geared toward young children. Student volunteers also do work in the flowerbeds and other essential work to keep the local parks good gathering grounds for the community.
"We have a good response for volunteers," Scott said.
Similarly, the Putnam County Public Library welcomes volunteers to perform a variety of tasks in the children's and local history reference sections depending on skills and availability.
"We are not currently looking for volunteers," PCPL director Alice Greenburg said, "but the help is great."
While there is no factor that can singularly explain a given area's volunteer rate, there are a number of community characteristics that can work together to have an impact.
If you are looking to make a difference, make the choice to volunteer.
Want to volunteer but don't know where to go?
Here are a few local organizations, where one can find a volunteer opportunity:
* Habitat For Humanity -- 653-9092 or 522-1920
* Putnam County Humane Society -- 653-5739
* Hope Haven Horse Farm -- 317-641-5716
* Putnam County 4-H office -- 653-8411
* Hopes Way -- 522-5566
* Emergency food pantry -- 653-3011
* Northern Putnam County Girl Scouts -- 522-1571
* Red Cross -- 653-4613