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Showing Up For Service

February 24, 2012

Today’s guest post comes from KaCey Venning, former AmeriCorps Schools Program Manager with Hands On Atlanta from 2007-2010. She’s currently the Member Development and Compliance Manager at Points of Light. You can keep up with all her musings on her Twitter: @KaCeyVenning

In celebration of Black History Month, I thought it would be appropriate to share some thoughts around Blacks and Volunteerism.  In 2009, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) reported that 5.7 MILLION Blacks volunteered!

Now, that figure is quite astonishing considering that CNCS reported 400,000 Blacks volunteered just the year before.  This report goes on to share that the 5.7 million Blacks who volunteered “churned out 792 million hours of volunteer work, which economist estimate is worth about $16.5 billion.”  That is pretty impressive.  But, on the other hand it’s just a measurable continuation…

Black Americans have a long tradition of volunteerism.  Most do not and will not recognize what they do in service as volunteering or giving back.  We usually call it “taking care of our own.”

For as long as Blacks have been a part of American history, Black Americans have had to find ways to ensure that everyone in the community survived and thrived.  It became a way of life.  It became survival for life.  As Blacks began to make strides and find more stable places at the “table” the tradition of taking care of our own didn’t go away, it shifted in how the caring was shared. Even now, we can look to the elders and see that they cook enough for the entire block or for the whole family.  Aunts and grandmothers are raising other family members’ children.  And where there is a need, it gets met.

As my generation continues to make great strides and advancements, we tend to break away from the traditional service that we provide to each other and look for ways to volunteer and give back that align more with mainstream society.  We are Big Brothers and Sisters, we serve in food pantries, we sponsor clothing drives and we show in parks.  We are showing up.

I encourage not just Black Americans or minorities to volunteer more, but for us ALL to get more involved organically and locally.  We are attracted by the big projects, by the big impact, by the big names.  But for those who live right next door or down the street, they can’t always wait for the big project.  They need you now.  I am sure that if you look around you will recognize need.

Get involved.  Mobilize others.  Inspire someone.  Let’s not make this just a trend, but a lifestyle and one that impacts and changes the course of someone else’s life.

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