Volunteers are Happier, Healthier

Volunteers are Happier, Healthier

STEP Volunteers Are Worth $500,000

Not only are STEP volunteers worth half a million dollars, they are healthier and happier people, according to national studies. The value of volunteer hours to STEP, Inc. (Solutions That Empower People) is easily in excess of $500,000, agency officials say. The week of April 16-20 is National Volunteer Recognition Week.

About 180 people donate an estimated 24,000 hours to help serve the community’s low-income population through STEP’s programs each year, according to agency reports. STEP is a community action agency that offers services in Franklin and Patrick counties, and Bedford, Martinsville and Danville. Services include Early Head Start and Head Start, youth services (LIFES Academy, Project Discovery), senior services (Meals on Wheels, transportation), supportive services (re-entry, homelessness, housing), weatherization, and financial services (tax preparation assistance, financial education, individual development accounts).

“There is no way we can truly put a price tag on what volunteers mean to our communities, but we can safely say that many essential services would not be offered without their help,” said STEP Executive Director Marc Crouse.

Traditionally, volunteer time has been estimated using a single dollar value for all types of volunteering. The Value of Volunteer Time is made available by Independent Sector, a national membership organization that brings together a diverse set of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations to advance the common good. Currently Independent Sector rates the national value of volunteer time at $24.14 per hour (2016). The estimate helps acknowledge the millions of individuals who dedicate their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.

The value of volunteer time is based on the hourly earnings (approximated from yearly values) of all production and non-supervisory workers on private non-farm payrolls average (based on yearly earnings provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) for the national average. Independent Sector indexes this figure to determine state values and increases it by 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits.

“Volunteers are vital to STEP’s operations,” Crouse said.  They perform a variety of necessary tasks, such as delivering meals to home-bound senior citizens; helping with congregate meals at community sites; providing assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start; offering student assessment and counseling services in LIFES Academy; and providing free tax return preparation service and other basic financial literacy programs. People who help direct the agency’s operations by serving on the Board of Directors are also volunteers. 

Besides the benefits to society, scientific studies have shown that individuals who volunteer enjoy psychological and physical benefits, including increased satisfaction, improved sense of belonging, lower blood pressure, increased protection from Alzheimer's, and decreased mortality, according to national studies.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63 million Americans gave 8 billion hours of volunteer service worth $193 billion in 2016. In Virginia in 2015, 2 million, or 30.6 percent ofVirginians volunteered 274 million hours for an economic impact of $6 billion. Virginia ranks 16th in U.S. for volunteerism.

National Volunteer Week in the United States was first established via Presidential Proclamation in 1974 and has been proclaimed by every American president during the week since its inception.