Utahns Spend Their Holidays Serving


(Photo Courtesy of Utah Food Bank)

(Photo Courtesy of Utah Food Bank)
(Photo Courtesy of Utah Food Bank)

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, more people are considering volunteering, but generosity does not spread solely during the holiday season.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service’s 2011 Report, Utah is the top-ranking state for community service in the nation. In 2013, according to the Salt Lake City Volunteer Services, approximately 758,000 volunteer hours were registered — equivalent to 365 full-time employees.
Gideon Tolman, spokesperson for the Bennion Center, said because they run on the semester schedule, they don’t usually see an increase of volunteers around this time of year, as students are preparing for finals. However, Tolman said he has noticed more involvement with non-profit organizations in the community.
“They usually get more volunteers because people tend to think more about service in November and December,” Tolman said. “Some nonprofits offer more opportunities this time of year, but really the majority of them have a lot of volunteer work to be done throughout the year.”
Ginette Bott, the chief development officer at the Utah Food Bank, said the trend hasn’t been toward more volunteers, but volunteers having to plan ahead of time for opportunities next season.
“We’ve seen a huge increased interest in preplanning,” Bott said. “Utah is the leading state in the nation for charitable giving and charitable time. We’re fortunate to be in a place where everyone wants to volunteer.”
Last year, Bott said the Utah Food Bank recorded 98,000 hours of volunteer time — equivalent to 47 full-time employees. Volunteers sign up for 90-minute shifts and do everything from warehouse work to decorating cardboard boxes that will carry food. Bott said there are significantly more call-in volunteers during the holidays, and currently, volunteering spots are filled until February. Bott said the food bank has a steady number of volunteers throughout the year but experiences a dip in involvement during the summer.
Tolman said the Bennion Center also sees their volunteer involvement slow down in the summer, as only a few programs still run during that time. Their busiest time is at the end of Spring Semester, when graduating student leaders wrap up their projects and prepare transition materials for incoming student leaders.
Paul Kim, a senior in music and economics and a member of Phi Delta Theta, is required to have a minimum 10 hours of community service per semester due to fraternity requirements. Kim said he has participated in several different projects throughout this semester, but his fraternity does not have a specific holiday charity event. Kim said he does see a trend of more volunteers around the holidays and has noticed several members of his fraternity volunteering with outside organizations.
“Since it’s usually labeled as the season of giving, people generally embrace the spirit of the holidays and give back to their fellow man,” Kim said.
Camille Conerly, a junior in political science, said the appeal of volunteering is more sensible to students because more opportunities seem to be present.
“The holidays give us more opportunities and makes people a lot more willing to donate and volunteer,” Conerly said. “The problem is, how do we keep up those warm, fuzzy feelings and the desire to help … beyond just the holidays? That’s something I’m still trying to figure out and wish I knew.”
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