Honolulu rates low in volunteering
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A national report has ranked Honolulu as one of the 10 worst cities for volunteering out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country.
The federal report, released by the Corporation for National and Community Service survey, puts Honolulu in 42nd place, in a tie with Providence, R.I.
The report found several themes that affect volunteer rates are commuting times, home ownership, education levels and volunteer opportunities.
Some local volunteer officials were skeptical of the study and said the spirit of volunteerism remains strong in Honolulu.
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A federal report that ranks Honolulu 42nd out of 50 cities for volunteering has not taken into account Hawaii's culture and misrepresents the city, said the director of the state's volunteer center.
"It's a culturally cold study," said Judith Cantil, assistant vice president of community building for the Aloha United Way. Cantil said the study asks people whether they "volunteer," which people in Hawaii do not do: Instead, they do more "neighboring" or "kokua."
"It's not a culturally appropriate term as a starting point," said Cantil, who also directs the state office of the Points of Light Foundation and Volunteer Center National Network.
"It's so different here. Culturally, it's different. It's much more person to person," Cantil said. Rather than actually walking into a soup kitchen, residents in Hawaii might ask a senior citizen neighbor if they can pick up some groceries for them, she said.
The Corporation for National and Community Service used U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2004 to 2006 for its report. It studied the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country in the federal agency's first look at volunteering habits and time volunteered at the city level. By its count, 23.3 percent of people in Honolulu volunteer.
When looking at number of hours volunteered by individual residents, Honolulu jumped to the middle of the pack at 30th, with residents volunteering an average of 35.3 hours per year.
Cities with the highest volunteering rates were in the Midwest. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., had the highest rate of volunteering at 40.5 percent, and Tulsa, Okla., had the highest hours volunteered at 60 hours per resident.
The report cited several themes that affected the volunteering rates: home ownership, graduation rate, commuting time and volunteer opportunities. As an example, people owning a home are more likely to be vested in the area, while long commutes are likely to decrease social interaction leading to volunteering, the report said. Volunteer rates also increase with education levels, it said.
Maria Lutz, director of disaster services for the American Red Cross's Hawaii State Chapter, said the poor rates for volunteers in Hawaii are a result of the cost of living and people working two jobs, not because people do not care.
"People in Hawaii are very generous. We've definitely seen more of a trend in volunteering in projects or groups that people might not consider that a volunteer project," she said, citing Rotary Clubs or school clubs such as the Red Cross club in high schools.
"A lot of people are volunteering in different ways," she said.
Cantil of Aloha United Way is trying to build stronger communities and neighbor relations that were lost when people moved into condominiums.
Through its Program Aloha Corps, the UAW encourages condo residents to hold barbecues and gatherings to recognize each other as family. Cantil sees it as a kind of volunteering that the national study does not recognize.
"Turning to the neighborhood is our solution here in Hawaii, and it fits so culturally with who we are as well," she said.