RALEIGH, NC– Under the premise that volunteers help improve the city, save money for the city and for local organizations and boost civic and personal pride, the city has launched an initiative that aims to promote volunteerism.
Called Volunteer Raleigh, the initiative connects volunteers with opportunities within city departments, city-funded agencies and organizations that provide services to enhance the quality of life for Raleigh’s neighborhoods and communities.
The five-month old initiative was one of the city programs highlighted at the annual Raleigh Neighborhood Exchange. The day-long event, held Sept. 19 at the McKimmon Center, was designed to inform city residents about city programs. Marionna Poke-Stewart, supervisor of community services for the City of Raleigh, participated in a workshop at the event that aimed to inspire attendees to volunteer.
“Volunteers have an enormous impact on the health and well being of our community, and they get to experience the joy of helping others and of helping the community,” Poke-Stewart said.
One goal, she noted, was to improve Raleigh’s rankings in surveys by the Corporation for National and Community Service. In the most recent rankings for that independent federal agency, Raleigh was tied for 35th in its volunteer rate.
“We know Raleigh is a great place to live,” she said, noting that the city perennially ranks at or near the top of surveys ranking the best places to live. “Another accolade we can add is that Raleigh is also a great place to volunteer.”
Volunteers provide more than 118,000 hours of service to over 50 nonprofit and public agencies, which saves the community approximately $ 2.6 million, according to the initiative’s web site. Volunteer Raleigh, which was launched in April, offers opportunities to citizens from 18 years of age and up.
The keynote speaker at the Raleigh Neighborhood Exchange was Derek Whittenburg, a former N.C. State University basketball player who was a member of team that won the 1983 NCAA national championship. Whittenburg, who lives in Raleigh, reinforced the call for volunteers. Recalling how advice from his high school coach helped him play his best during the championship game, he told the audience that volunteering – particularly mentoring youth – can change lives.
“Whatever time you give, don’t underestimate the impact it will have,” he said. “You’re giving to make an impact on these people – they are the people who will say, ‘Thank you, coach.’ ”
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