Where have all the volunteers gone?

Whether it’s the local fire department, service group or even a booster club, organizations throughout the country are struggling to find enough volunteers to stay alive. It’s no different in Custer, where you will frequently hear that certain events or organizations are in danger of going away due to a lack of volunteers. Perhaps exhibit A of that is that there will be no arts and crafts fair this year during the Old Time Country Fourth, and our 1881 Courthouse Museum has scaled back hours as it relies entirely upon volunteers.
Make no mistake about it—this town has some fantastic people who give of their time and talents selflessly and volunteer for a variety of entities and events. We certainly appreciate those people. Many other people simply don’t have the desire, time or both to lend a helping hand. When it comes to the latter, we can certainly relate. People seem to be busier and stretched more thin than ever, and when they do have some precious free time they want to spend it with themselves, family, friends, etc. They don’t want to spend it with a volunteer organization. You can hardly blame them for making that choice.
Americans are spending more and more time at home and less in their communities. We imagine part of this is also due to technology. People are glued to their phone and/or TV these days, and have more options than ever to keep them entertained on their couch. Why help feed the homeless when you can play Candy Crush? Some other person will help those homeless people anyway, right? Well, that might rapidly be becoming not the case. People are also working longer hours, which also leaves them less apt to volunteer.
According to the Philanthropy News Digest, while the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated shortages, volunteering has actually been on the decline for the past 13 years. According to a recent report released by the Census Bureau and AmeriCorps, the number of volunteers in America dropped about 7 percent between September 2020 and 2021, and in that same year, a little more than 23 percent of Americans formally volunteered with an organization, the lowest percentage of volunteering since tracking began in the early 2000s. The largest decline is mostly concentrated in suburban and rural areas, where volunteering rates had been the highest.
Part of what makes this community so great is its people who are willing to help others out whenever they can. If you are among the many who give of themselves, we salute you. If you are not currently volunteering in some form or fashion, we encourage to you to do so. Some of our staff recently began dipping our toe into the volunteering pool, and are finding it to be very rewarding. It always feels good to help others. It just makes for a better community and a better society.
Volunteering provides you with a sense of purpose, a sense of community, can teach you valuable skills and can also help you make new friends while even teaching you some skills you may not have otherwise had. We know everyone is busy. But let’s give back when we can. It will only make the community in which we live that much better.

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