Volunteers gave 100,000 hours in 2012

Tennessee is nicknamed the Volunteer State, and Chattanooga's volunteers certainly live up to that standard.

Last year, 12,224 volunteers representing two volunteer organizations - the United Way's Volunteer Center and the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program - together donated 100,292 hours to area nonprofits.

If a monetary value were assigned that free labor, using the Independent Sector's estimation of $21.79 per hour, then those volunteers made more than a $2.1 million impact on their city's quality of life.

In just one day during 2012, the United Way's Volunteer Center logged one of the largest single volunteer events in its history, according to United Way spokeswoman Kelley Nave. That milestone occurred, Nave said, when Unum sent 200 volunteers to clean up the grounds of Camp Adahi.

"Our 2012 Day of Caring sent [volunteers from] 30 companies to 35 organizations. More than 600 volunteers contributed approximately 3,600 hours, at a value of more than $78,000," she said.

Overall, 11,798 people placed by the United Way Volunteer Center donated 35,757 hours in 2012.

Nave noted that although there were just over 600 more volunteers in 2012 than 2011, there were 1,586 more hours worked in 2011. This can be attributed, United Way officials said, to the number of volunteer hours invested in the recovery from spring 2011 tornadoes.

Jamie Gavlenski, program coordinator for the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, said 426 volunteers served anywhere from one hour to the 1,996 hours given by one individual. RSVP is sponsored by Alexian Brothers Ministries and operates from the Senior Neighbors center on 10th Street.

"Our volunteers range in age from 55 into their 90s," said Gavlenski. "Their average age is 73. The majority of RSVP members volunteer three to four hours per week. However, 13 percent volunteer five to 10 hours per week and 6 percent volunteer from 11 to 30 hours per week."

Gavlenski said RSVP is designed to provide meaningful opportunities to retired or semiretired people ages 55 and older, while relieving the financial burdens many nonprofits feel.

"If you ask why they volunteer, many of their answers are the same: They enjoy getting out of the house and meeting new people and trying new activities. They also find great personal satisfaction in helping their community," said Gavlenski.

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

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