Americans spent 8 billion hours volunteering in 2010

NEW YORK Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:09am EDT

A volunteer worker keeps loaves of bread in a refrigerator inside the Mary Brennan Interfaith Nutrition Network (INN) soup kitchen in Hempstead, New York June 2, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A volunteer worker keeps loaves of bread in a refrigerator inside the Mary Brennan Interfaith Nutrition Network (INN) soup kitchen in Hempstead, New York June 2, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK, Aug 10 (Reuters Life!)- More than 60 million Americans volunteered 8.1 billion hours of their services in 2010 in work valued at nearly $173 billion, according to a new report.

Whether it is tutoring and mentoring students, fundraising, job training or assisting during natural disasters, volunteers have contributed to their communities, the report by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) showed,

Although the overall national rate of volunteerism dipped from 26.8 percent to 26.3 last year, the number of hours has remained the same, indicating that many volunteers are devoting more hours.

"Every day, volunteers of all ages are giving their time and talents to solve problems and make our country stronger," said Robert Velasco II, acting CEO of CNCS.

Minneapolis-St.Paul ranked No. 1 in volunteerism among large U.S. cities, with 37.1 percent of people giving their services. Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Rochester, New York were other urban areas with strong volunteer rates.

On a state level Utah led the way followed by Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.

People born between 1965-1981, known as Generation X, volunteered more of their time to volunteering than ever before, contributing 2.3 billion hours in 2010 -- 110 million hours more than the year before.

Velasco said the figures show that civic involvement increases as people become more deeply rooted in their community through family, work and school ties.

Partly thanks to social networking, teen volunteer rates have been significantly higher between 2002 and 2010 than they were in 1989, according to the report called "Volunteering in America."

It attributed high teen volunteer rates to greater emphasis on service-learning in high schools, the influence of parents who volunteer and the ease of finding volunteer opportunities with the Internet.

"Technology in the broad sense of social networking has been an asset to volunteerism. I think young people are much more attuned to volunteering at an earlier age than some of us were," Velasco said in an interview.

"They have much more social engagement and networks, and, as a result, they are just much more engaged."

CNCS said it produces the annual report to expand volunteerism and to help elected officials and leaders of nonprofit organizations develop strategies to mobilize more Americans to get involved in their local communities.

The organization recently partnered with the White House to launch a website, serve.gov, where potential volunteers can find opportunities in their areas by entering their interests and zip code.

(Corrects typo in first paragraph to billion, instead of million)

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