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Making Oregon's "Day of Service" Last All Year

PHOTO: Yard and garden cleanup are just some of the tasks for volunteers on this National Day of Service. Close to 200 people in central Oregon have signed up for three major painting and fix-up projects for nonprofit groups. Photo courtesy Volunteer Connect.
PHOTO: Yard and garden cleanup are just some of the tasks for volunteers on this National Day of Service. Close to 200 people in central Oregon have signed up for three major painting and fix-up projects for nonprofit groups. Photo courtesy Volunteer Connect.
January 20, 2014

BEND, Ore. - For many Oregonians, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a federal holiday - it's a day to honor Dr. King's legacy by volunteering. Almost 200 people have signed up for three big one-day projects in central Oregon. They are cleaning or painting today at community centers in Bend and La Pine, and at a food bank in Redmond.

Katya Spiecker, program coordinator for Volunteer Connect, said her central Oregon group matches volunteers with more than 120 partner organizations - and often, a one-day commitment turns into a lot more.

"That's absolutely the case - in fact, I don't know many volunteers who haven't felt that, when they have given their time to an effort and then been able to see what they've contributed to. They see the impact they have made," Spiecker said.

According to a new national report, Oregon ranks 11th in the country for volunteerism. About one-third of Oregonians spend an average of 52 hours a year as volunteers, which equates to more than $3 billion worth of service hours.

One of them is Eric Lindstrom of Portland. Three years ago, he found himself in the John Day Basin, helping pull old barbed-wire fences off of public land. He went at the suggestion of a friend and said it was quite a workout - one that started a longer-term commitment.

"On the way out of there, I stopped and I turned around and looked, and I could not believe how different that country looked, just by pulling those three strands and those red posts out of the ground. And that just transformed my whole thinking about service activity. It was a wonderful experience," Lindstrom said.

Lindstrom, who is retired, has also used his writing and photography skills to help some groups. He predicts as baby boomers hit retirement age, they will discover that volunteering is a great way to stay active and be part of the community.

"I think we're headed toward a golden age of service contributions and service learning, especially for the older population. You always think about service learning for kids in school, but service learning is actually a great adult education activity," he said.

As a result, Lindstrom now thinks of volunteering not only in terms of what he can give, but what he can learn from it.

The report on volunteerism, from the Corporation for National and Community Service, is online at www.volunteeringinamerica.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR