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‘Volunteer’ city helps out

BY ALINA RUBEZHOVA and ZHANRAN ZHAO | JUNE 22, 2009 7:21 AM

Volunteer turnout rates in Iowa City are high compared with other cities in the United States — 17 percent higher than the national average.

As of 2008, the Corporation for National and Community Service reported Iowa City had the second highest volunteer rate ranking among 75 midsize cities — outdone only by Provo, Utah.

Citing the success of last year’s flood-relief effort, Gov. Chet Culver announced the “Summer of Service” program on June 19 in Coralville — a program closely compared with President Obama’s “United We Serve.”

Culver’s program aims to sustain civic engagement by connecting people with service opportunities.

But numbers show Iowans are already proactive in seeking such work. According to the national report, Iowa City has an average volunteer rate of 45.1 percent, compared with 27.6 percent nationwide.

Part of the reason is events such as the 10,000 Hours program, which started in the fall of 2002 by a group of UI undergraduates who wanted to make a difference. Seven years later, it is still running strong.

“It’s the mindset of today’s youth to help out,” said UI junior Andrew Rausch, a spokesman for 10,000 Hours.

Volunteer turnout depends on the event, he said. However, when the campus or community as a whole is involved, such as with Habitat for Humanity, 10,000 Hours normally see a higher turnout.

Politicians such as Culver making public statements about volunteering encourages the community to help out, Rausch said.

“It’s a great motivator, it really gets our staff pumped up,” which in turn gets volunteers excited, he said.

UI senior Gregory Bligard, the chairman of the College Student Leader Board at the UI Hospitals and Clinics, said hospital volunteers work with 10,000 Hours and Dance Marathon — a nationwide philanthropy that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network, which benefits children with cancer along with their families.

It has raised $6.4 million throughout its 14 years and passed the $1 million mark two years in a row.
For some, volunteerism doesn’t necessarily mean one-way benefit; Jean Reed, the director of UIHC volunteer services, believes there is a high volunteer rate at the hospital partly because it offers learning opportunities for students.

“Volunteering is a great opportunity to go into the hospital and interact with the patients,” said Bligard.

Reed said the hospital requires college students to serve at least 75 hours over two semesters, “which makes departments more amenable to training the volunteers.”

At the national level, Obama has initiated a similar program, which begins today and ends Sept. 11, which encourages all Americans to serve their communities by creating new volunteer projects based on community needs and to stay involved in those activities.

“Volunteering is a great way to communicate and meet people, and it looks good on a résumé,” said Rausch.


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