Hawaii ranks near bottom for volunteers
Hawaii residents are among the worst in the nation in volunteering their time, according to a national report released yesterday.
A quarter of isle residents 16 and older served as volunteers between 2003 and 2005, ranking the state 44th in the nation, according to a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Volunteer rates for residents 16 and older over the three-year period 2003-2005 for the top eight and bottom eight states and District of Columbia:
1. Utah, 48.0 percent
2. Nebraska, 42.8 percent
3. Minnesota, 40.7 percent
4. Iowa, 39.2 percent
5. Alaska, 38.9 percent
6. (tie) Wyoming, 38.8 percent; South Dakota, 38.8 percent
8. Kansas, 38.6 percent
44. Hawaii, 25.4 percent
45. (tie) Rhode Island, 24.9 percent; Arizona, 24.9 percent
47. West Virginia, 24.6 percent
48. Florida, 24.1 percent
49. Louisiana, 22.7 percent
50. New York, 21.3 percent
51. Nevada, 18.8 percent
Source: Corporation for National and Community Service
The corporation is a federal agency whose programs include Senior Corps and AmeriCorps, and tracked volunteer efforts for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found Utah leading the nation in volunteering work with 48 percent. Nebraska was second with 42.8 percent, followed by Minnesota with 40.7 percent, Iowa with 39.2 percent and Alaska with 38.9 percent.
On average, 244,000 Hawaii residents volunteer each year.
Isle residents might not be volunteering as much because of the state's high cost of living, which forces many to work long shifts or hold multiple jobs, said Lyn Moku, division manager for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Hawaii.
"People have a very limited amount of time," she said. "Everybody is so busy now."
Even with about 40 "very committed" staff volunteers and more than 200 others who help organize fundraisers each year, Moku said "we are always looking for more."
Of the ones who do volunteer in the islands, they tend to give more of their time. Hawaii had the third-highest proportion of volunteers providing 500 or more hours of service annually, the report said.
Connie Abram, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said her group has four women who work every day along with about 100 other volunteers a year.
"Rain or shine they are here. They are loyal and dedicated to whatever task we have," she said. "From stapling ribbons to major projects, they are here."
Abram said it is hard to find adults to monitor DUI cases in court records because "that takes someone who has availability during the workday."
"Often when people are willing to volunteer, it's their evening or weekend time, and there aren't always activities available," she said.
Getting kids to help with campaigns to raise awareness of underage drinking are also hard to find, she noted, because they have to juggle homework, jobs and friends.
Hawaii's enticing tropical weather might also discourage some from volunteering for office work, Abram said.
The report also found:
» Residents of Hawaii age 35 to 54 were more likely to volunteer than residents in other age groups, a finding consistent with the West.
» A greater percentage of blacks in Hawaii volunteered (31.7 percent) than anywhere else across the nation (20.9 percent).
» Hawaii residents contribute each year an average 35,994,465 hours of volunteer service totaling $649,340,151 of service to the state. The figure is based an estimate of the dollar value of a volunteer hour, which is $18.04.
Lynn Dunn, state director of the CNCS, who said she needed to evaluate and analyze the data, the first sampling of its kind, did not know why Hawaii ranked so low.
Dunn said there are a lot of factors that could have dropped Hawaii to the bottom states, such as the high cost of living, which limits the time available for volunteering. Also, Hawaii's diverse population might not consider common activities they participate in as volunteering, from helping out at church to holding water cups at the Honolulu Marathon.
The report said that more than 65.4 million Americans performed service of some kind in 2005 alone, compared with 59.8 million in 2002.
"Overall we're doing terrific," CNCS Chief Executive David Eisner said in a telephone interview. "We seem to be having a renaissance of civic engagement."
Eisner credits the increase to a call for American service by President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and to a sense of duty stirred along the Gulf Coast by hurricane destruction in recent years.
The survey tracked the volunteer rates of participating individuals, their ages, hours served, gender, race and ethnicity. It also looked at where people volunteered and what types of activities they performed. Data for the survey was collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Nationally, the study found that women volunteered more often than men, married people did more volunteer work and blacks volunteered more frequently than any other nonwhite group. The most committed age group was Americans 35-44 years old.
Most Americans, 34.8 percent, said they volunteered primarily through religious organizations, with 26.2 percent of volunteers giving time to educational or youth-related organizations.
More than 35 percent said they volunteered as coaches, referees, tutors or mentors, followed by fundraising at 29.7 percent and collection, preparation or distribution of food at 26.3 percent.
"We need volunteering to be as much a part of people's lives as their work, their families and their social time," Eisner said.
The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Alexandre Da Silva contributed to this report.