by Dave Warner

Let’s face it, Little Falls has got a lot of things going in its favor right now. Everybody feels it. Positive energy, enthusiasm, great festivals, businesses opening up, and other initiatives being planned that haven’t even been made public yet.

Yes, we have our problems…aging infrastructure, poverty, and other things that so many other communities are facing. Yet, we are aware of those things, and at so many levels, there are people that are not only talking about those problems but doing something to address them.

But, a lot of that momentum could come to a screeching halt because of one thing – a lack of volunteers.

Many of the positive things that happen in this City, happen because of the behind-the-scenes work of scores of volunteers. And, those volunteers have been at it for years, and in many cases, for decades. They are getting old, they are dying, they are flat wearing out.

It’s the most common complaint I hear about when sitting at committee meetings, board meetings, and in private discussions. We need volunteers, we need people to replace those who have died, are ill, or have just done it for so long, they need a break.

According to a 2018 Volunteering in America report, it found that 77.34 million adults (30.3 percent) volunteered through an organization last year. Altogether, Americans volunteered nearly 6.9 billion hours, worth an estimated $167 billion in economic value, based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour for 2017. Millions more are supporting friends and family (43.1 percent) and doing favors for their neighbors (51.4 percent), suggesting that many are engaged in acts of “informal volunteering.”

Here are some key findings from that report:

  • Americans in Utah report the highest rate of volunteering (51 percent), holding the top spot among states, followed by Minnesota (45.1 percent). Oregon (43.2 percent) climbed from the 13th-ranked state to the third and is joined by Iowa (41.5 percent) and Alaska (40.6 percent), also new to the top five.
  • Among cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul (46.3 percent) once again ranks first, with Rochester, N.Y. (45.6 percent), Salt Lake City (45 percent), Milwaukee, Wisc. (44.6 percent), and Portland, Ore., (44.3 percent) trailing just behind.
  • Parents volunteer at rates nearly 48 percent higher than non-parents and working mothers give more time than any other demographic, with a volunteer rate of 46.7 percent.
  • Generation X has the highest rate (36.4 percent) of volunteering, while Baby Boomers are giving more hours of service (2.2 billion). Millennials are stepping up to do more in Utah and the District of Columbia.
  • Veterans are among the most neighborly Americans. They do something positive for the neighborhood, spend time with and do favors for their neighbors, and donate to charity at higher rates than their civilian counterparts. Veterans in New Hampshire and Virginia are volunteering more than in other states.
  • Americans most frequently gave their time to religious groups (32 percent), a quarter volunteered most often with sports or arts groups (25.7 percent); with another nearly 20 percent supporting education or youth service groups.
  • One in three volunteers raises funds for nonprofits (36 percent). Additional volunteer activities include food donation and meal preparation (34.2 percent); transportation and labor support (23 percent); tutoring young people (23 percent); serving as a mentor (26.2 percent), and lending professional and management expertise (20.5 percent).

Despite all of this good news in America, we’re running a bit short here in Little Falls and several organizations are concerned about the trend. One, in particular, is the Greater Little Falls Community Chest.

Never heard of it? I hadn’t, but here’s a partial list of who they support:

Little Falls Babe Ruth League Baseball, Little Falls Community Outreach, Little Falls Family YMCA, Little Falls Little League, Little Falls Youth Basketball, Little Falls Youth Softball Program, Little Falls Youth Football, Little Falls Youth Soccer Program, Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts, and the Women’s Christian Association (WCA).

According to interim President Tony DeLuca “The Greater Little Falls Community Chest is the local equivalent of the United Way. It’s not affiliated with the United Way nationally, but it’s the Little Falls version of unified fund-raising to fund local agencies.”

“It’s 100% volunteer-driven. There are no paid employees. About 99% of what is collected goes directly to the agencies we support,” he said. The other percentage goes to printing and other small marketing initiatives that the group has.

When donations are made to this organization, the volunteer board decides how to award the money to the member agencies.

Historically, they’ve been able to raise $60-$70,000 per year, but according to DeLuca, things have been going downhill, and while their target this year is only $40,000, he said they’ll be lucky to hit the $30,000 mark.

“We need to get more volunteers involved in the board whose primary function is to operate the campaign and get out and solicit,” stated DeLuca.

The campaign typically runs in October and November. “We try to get captains in each of the industry divisions that we’ve identified and hit their specific areas, and then we typically have a campaign chairman.”

This year, they were unable to get a volunteer as a campaign chairman. “We have some key people in some of those divisions that are reliable year after year, but we really need to beef up the manpower in this group,” he said.

DeLuca said, “If we can build this pot of money that we collect each year and reallocate it back to the agencies, that takes the pressure off of them to do their own fundraising. It eliminates a lot of duplication.”

The group is looking for a volunteer for President and even business manager. “We’re really looking to rebuild the ranks. We need some leadership,” he said.

There are some things we can do to help this group and others who need volunteer support. When new people come into town, find out what they’re interested in and ask them to get involved. If you are in charge of an event, try and find people to help out who have never been asked to volunteer before. You might be surprised at the response.

And in particular, get the young people involved. If they get interested in something at an early age, it’s likely they’ll stick with that event for many years to come.

If you’d like to donate to the Community Chest, use the form below. If you’d like to volunteer for the group, contact Tony DeLuca at the YMCA – 315-823-1740.