The act of volunteering is not a new idea. During the colonial days, people banded together to survive the new world. Communities came together to help others plant crops, build homes and fight disease. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin organized the first volunteer firehouse. Paving the way for today’s norm and even today, 70% of the nation’s firefighters are volunteers.
As time went by and our nation expanded during the 19th century, people became more aware of the disadvantaged. Out of this awareness came the YMCA, American Red Cross and United Way.
During the Civil War, women established Ladies Aid Society, which provided supplies to soldiers and care for the sick and wounded. During the war, the Ladies Aid Society established between 7,000-20,000 societies.
It wasn’t until the 20th Century when volunteerism became mainstream. The first nationwide effort to coordinate volunteers was during the Great Depression. This effort included Volunteers of America, which founded in 1919 and still operates today. As of 2019, Volunteers of America reaches over 170 million people across the nation
Volunteers also signed up to help during World War II. Establishing donation collection sights, entertaining soldiers while on leave and caring for the injured. Major developments occurred post war, including the Peace Corps and Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, creating the expansion of volunteer awareness.
In 2011, the nation reached the highest level of volunteers since 2006. Americans contributed over 8 billion hours of their time towards local and national causes. Today, 1 in 4 Americans have donated their time as a volunteer. That’s roughly 64.3 million people.
The internet has changed the way people find volunteer opportunities. Virtual Volunteer is a way for companies or organizations to find people to complete an online task regardless of where they live. Micro-Volunteering is on the rise. This allows people to do small, tiny tasks that people are unable to do themselves.
Volunteering is part of America’s history and present. The desire to help people will always live within this great country. The “why” might change over time!
If you're looking to give back to your community this month, here are some great sites to find the perfect match: