National Volunteer Week

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Idaho has one of the highest levels of resident volunteerism in the country according to one national survey. According to the AmeriCorps survey, over a third of Idaho citizens donate their time, talent and money to a wide variety of causes – including just being good neighbors.

Next week, April 18-24, is National Volunteer Week. Established in 1974 as an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, the theme this year is “shining a light on the people and causes that inspire us to serve.”

The AmeriCorp national survey says that over 380,000 Idahoans serve as volunteers in some capacity, averaging 37.5 volunteer hours per year. At 34.1% of the population, Idaho ranks number-five nationwide.

Those thousands of volunteer hours range from religious and education support to social and community services. In Idaho, About 43 percent of those hours are contributed to religious service. About 22 percent is to educational and youth services and social or community services account for another 12 percent.

In Gem County some volunteerism seems to check more than one box. The Emmett Valley Friendship Coalition serves the community with a variety of food support programs including a food pantry and weekly fellowship dinners fitting the social and community service spectrum. Yet, many of the volunteers also lend a hand through their own religious organizations.

The EVFC has 350-400 core volunteers – of all ages. Those volunteers contribute over 2,600 hours to preparing and service Fellowship Dinners and 3,625 hours to operation of the Friendship Pantry each year. In addition, the program also operate the Christmas Cheer Basket Program which isn’t included in those numbers.

The Emmett Independent School District operates many of its programs – both in classroom and extracurricular – with substantial volunteer support.

The Emmett City Library is also heavily dependent upon volunteers.

“Our 50-60 volunteers average over 2,000 hours per year helping with the library with a variety of tasks,” Librarian Alyce Kelley said. “From book sales, children’s programming prep, cleaning inside and out, sorting and organizing all our many resources and donations and much more.”

During 2020 the strain on volunteers to meet the demands for help created by the novel coronavirus pandemic increased their value exponentially.

Now as the pandemic appears to be weakening and life is trying to return to some new normal, the demand for volunteers will likely shift again to meet the needs of the many events that are being prepared for this year.

A coalition of churches formed Emmett Compassion several years ago. They tackle a huge menu of service projects in the community, this year on Saturday, May 1st – Serve Emmett Day. Projects have been submitted and are now being organized and assigned. If you want to get involved, there is a place for you. You can learn more and sign up at emmettcompassion.org.

The Cherry Festival is planning to return to its glory, after missing last year, and will be held June 16-19. A perfect time to Cherry(sh) the Memories and become part of some new ones. Volunteers should contact the Gem County Chamber of Commerce immediately at 365-3485.

The Gem/Boise County Fair and Rodeo is slated for July 28-31. There is a spot for just about everyone to help in preparing the fairgrounds or supporting the many fair and rodeo events. You can learn more by calling 365-6828.

Those are just a few of the opportunities available in the coming weeks – some asking for an hour or two and others perhaps a weekly commitment. Another way to volunteer is to become a member of one of Emmett’s many service clubs. They all work cooperatively to advance their missions and meet the needs of the community.

We’ll profile more of Gem County volunteers in the April 21 Messenger Index.

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