Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week has grown exponentially in scope each year, drawing the support and endorsement of all subsequent U.S. presidents, governors, mayors, and other respected elected officials.
National Volunteer Week embodies the energy and power that volunteers evoke on a daily basis as they lead by example—not only encouraging the people they help, but motivating others to serve as well.
This year’s theme, “Celebrating People in Action,” captures the meaning of this signature week—honoring the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities. It’s an opportunity for individuals, families, nonprofit organizations, and government entities alike to celebrate the ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things through service.
This program was originally created by President George W. Bush in 2002. “We want to be a nation that serves goals larger than self,” said President Bush. The President’s Volunteer Service Award honors the valuable contributions of volunteers of all ages. There are three levels of the award—Bronze, Silver, and Gold—and four categories of the award varying by age. (Even children under 14 years old can earn the President’s Volunteer Service Award by completing just 50 or more hours of volunteer service in one year.)
The President’s Volunteer Service Award can be received by an individual, family or group for volunteers hours completed during any 12-month period. The program’s website has a place for individuals and groups to register and track the hours that have been volunteered. Homeschool groups can sign up to be a “Certifying Organization” if they want to be able to order and present awards. The process is really easy, it only takes a few minutes, and there is no cost. All types of groups can become certifying organizations, from small local groups to large national organizations.
Global Youth Service Day is an annual campaign that celebrates and mobilizes children and youth to improve their communities through service and service-learning. Global Youth Service Day will be held from April 20-22, 2012. Youth Service America, organizers of Global Youth Service Day, publishes a set of free downloadable resources and curricula guides to help you plan a community service event or semester of service.
Of course, volunteer work does not have to be limited to certain days. There are many opportunities all year round for adults, teens, and kids to help others, serve at church, care for the environment, and make their communities better places to live. Can you think of any ways in which you could volunteer in your community? Be sure to consider your interests and choose a cause that is personally important to you, so that you will be able to enjoy your work, feel that your valuable time is being used wisely, and have a sense that you are contributing something of worth to the world.