Mississippi has a proud legacy of community service and giving back to those in need. National Volunteer Week 2012, beginning on Sunday, April 15, is a chance to recognize our many local heroes and the potential each person has to make a positive and lasting difference.
No matter the challenge, Mississippians have repeatedly shown they are willing to lend a helping hand. A year ago, thousands mobilized to rebuild communities after devastating tornadoes and flooding caused significant damage across the state. They saw their neighbors in need, and they swiftly responded to the call for action. The same was true after Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill -- making our state a national model for overcoming adversity.
It does not take a powerful disaster to compel change. Mississippians regularly volunteer precious time and energy to community organizations, food banks, churches, and schools. They mentor youth, teach Sunday School, and build homes for disadvantaged families. In countless ways, Mississippians exemplify our state's reputation for hospitality in their daily lives.
In a difficult economy, the donation of time and talents can be incredibly valuable when budgets are tight. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS), about half a million Mississippians participate in volunteer projects each year and dedicate more than 70 million hours of service.
In doing so, our state reaps an economic impact of $1.5 billion in service. Nationwide, recent data from CNCS put the annual dollar value of volunteer time at nearly $173 billion.
Making the Grade
In addition to its economic benefits, volunteerism is enriching the lives of Mississippi's students and preparing them to be active and engaged citizens. Last month, six colleges and universities in our state were named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The distinguished list recognizes schools for their commitment to service-learning and community involvement. This year, Millsaps College in Jackson was one of 14 finalists for the prestigious Presidential Award, which is the highest national honor awarded to a college or university for community service.
Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week embodies the tradition of giving and goodwill that has defined America throughout history. President Ronald Reagan described our country's volunteerism as "the spirit of "We the People.' " Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called it "quintessentially American."
The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service (MCVS) is a helpful resource for those who want to get involved and continue this important part of our national heritage. With five volunteer centers throughout the state, MCVS can match citizens with local projects and meaningful opportunities that serve the needs of their communities. Last year, the centers worked with more than 8,800 volunteers, who dedicated 29,600 hours of service. More information about MCVS and ways to participate can be found online at VolunteerMississippi.org.
Tackling our nation's problems will be the product of many hands. As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, I hope all Mississippians will be inspired to make volunteering a part of their lives. To those who have already set an inspiring example, I thank you for your selfless commitment to your neighbors and community.