Friday, January 15, 2010

There's never been a greater need

I've been absent from the blog pages for an uncharacteristically long time, due to a combination of holiday leave, illness, and submersion in meeting grant proposal deadlines. I totaled them up today, and I've written and submitted fifteen grant proposals over the past two months in support of our volunteer and outreach programs! Hopefully it will pay off, allowing us to continue recruiting excellent volunteer coordinators, student and youth interns, and participants in our "Camping Adventures with My Parents" program. Already we've received thousands of dollars in support through Washington's National Park Fund, and to those of you who have contributed to their efforts, I thank you humbly and gratefully.

Meanwhile, I've been struck repeatedly over the past month by how great the need is for volunteers. We've had a rash of police officers wounded or killed lately, including two just north of Eatonville, and there have been multiple benefit events to raise money for their families. The neice of one of our employees here at the national park was seriously injured in an automobile accident last week, and there will be benefit dinners on her behalf, along with volunteer efforts to refit her house to accommodate wheelchairs. So many people these days are in dire straits due to the economy, and agencies that provide support for them have never been in greater need of assistance, both in donations and volunteer time. And, of course, we're all watching the crisis unfold in Haiti, where local volunteers were killed during the performance of their duties, and where more volunteers are pouring in every day to help with the long recovery. There, too, there is a role for everyone: even those who aren't able to fly to the Caribbean can contribute to volunteer charities or even "text" a few dollars in support through their cell phone.

It is in times like this, when our communities, our nation, and our world are in their greatest need, when the role of volunteerism in our national identity really shines. Americans are reportedly one of the most generous nations on earth in terms of volunteer service. (If anyone can find good statistics to back up this oft-repeated claim, let me know; the few studies I could find do tend to support it.) 62 million of us donate a median of 52 hours of service every year, even on top of our full-time jobs (or unemployment) and substantial charitable financial contributions. Some do so by flying around the world to help for months or years at a time in Haiti or Afghanistan; others volunteer in their spare minutes at local schools or national parks.

I will soon be posting a "master list" of volunteer opportunities at Mount Rainier in the coming year on this blog, and you can find most of them tabulated in the right-hand column of this page. Other national park and public lands volunteer opportunities can be found at the websites and There isn't much happening at Mount Rainier this time of year, as the rain and snow pours down outside, but there are many ways to contribute in your own neighborhood while you wait for the weather to improve.

I think it's revealing of our national character--and also, in a way, comforting--that the combined volunteer contributions of Americans, measured as equivalent full-time employees, is substantially greater than the total of number people working in Federal and State governments nationwide. We are the ones who make it happen. To all of you, keep up the great work, and thanks.

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