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Southern Arizona is home to thousands of warm-hearted talented people, passionate to help the community without a request for anything in return. Volunteers who help others are integral to our community and to organizations that rely on their assistance, dedication and input. 

According to the 2018 “Volunteering in America” report, one in three adults volunteered through an organization. Their help included fundraising, food donations and meal preparation, transportation and labor support, tutoring/teaching/mentoring and lending professional and management expertise. 

The impact of the 77.34 million adult volunteers across America amounted to an estimated $167 billion in economic value. Not often mentioned, however, are the intangible benefits—the building of community and personal relationships, the joy of experiencing a deeper meaning for life and the enhancing of one’s health and longevity profile. 

In addition, informal volunteering, without an organizational affiliation, is and has always been alive and well in America. Millions of Americans support friends and family, do favors for neighbors, give their time to religious groups, support sports or arts groups and support education or youth service groups. Without a doubt, the act of volunteering and offering one’s time and energies to help another enhances not only our lives, but our communities.

Volunteerism for the job seeker has the added benefit of positively impacting a seeker’s chances for employment. The 2018 report showed that volunteers have a 27 percent higher chance of securing a job after being unemployed than do non-volunteers. The report also found that volunteers without a high school diploma have a 51 percent higher chance of finding employment than non-volunteers. While quantitative analysis has yet to be done, it is suspected that volunteering increases employment prospects by assisting seekers in learning new skills, expanding their networks and learning leadership skills by taking on new roles. 

Arizona’s rate of volunteerism has continued to grow from 24.9 percent in 2006 with a state ranking of 44th, to 30.04 percent according to the latest 2018 report, increasing Arizona’s ranking to 34th among the 50 states and Washington, DC. Clearly, enormous positive progress has occurred in the last 12 years and more Arizonans than ever are stepping up to provide needed help in their communities, including schools, youth-related groups, nonprofit agencies, philanthropic organizations and corporations. 

Raising the awareness of the extraordinary value of volunteerism in Southern Arizona is the reason SAVMA (Southern Arizona Volunteer Management Association) began its Southern Arizona-wide recognition event in 2020. Celebrating outstanding volunteerism across the generations ensures the message of promoting volunteerism will continue to grow in our community. At the upcoming second annual SAVMA event in January 2020, honorees in six different categories are being recognized for exemplary volunteer contributions to the region as well as those nominated for community service recognition. Those who work with volunteers, oversee volunteers, volunteer themselves and those who want to be inspired by volunteers are encouraged to attend.

The event takes place on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Tucson Convention Center. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Purchase tickets at savma.org, $40. Keynote Workshop from 10:30 a.m. to noon is $25 per person, titled “Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em: How to Inspire, Fire, or Move Challenging Volunteers.” Sponsorships are also available which include a Community Service Recognition for one of your own outstanding volunteers.

2020 SAVMA Award Winners

Program Volunteer of the Year: Steve Johnson, Court Appointed Special Advocates

Corporate Volunteerism Award: Southwest Gas Corporation

Nonprofit Volunteer Program of the Year: Interfaith Community Services

Youth Volunteer Group of the Year: Zoo Crew at Reid Park Zoo

Board Member of the Year: Scott Summerford, Interfaith Community Services

Volunteer Administrator of the Year: Gina Hansen, Habitat for Humanity

Tori Carlson, MS CVA, is a SAVMA Board Member and Volunteer Interfaith Community Services Resources Manager.

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