Photo courtesy of Sean Trenary, VEAP.

Mayor’s memo: Get out and volunteer Bloomington

By Mayor Tim Busse

Bloomington is fortunate to be home to many outstanding charitable organizations that provide invaluable services to our residents. Most of those organizations couldn’t do the work they do without the help of volunteers. You don’t have to look far to find volunteer opportunities.

Yet, at a time when there is record need for services, fewer people are giving their time. In Bloomington, we’ve seen a steady decline in volunteer participation in recent years. In the 2020 National Community Survey, 30% of respondents said they volunteered their time to some group activity in Bloomington. This was down from 31% in 2019, and 40% in 2013. It’s likely COVID-19 concerns have meant that fewer older adults and other high-risk populations are volunteering for group activities these days.

More surprisingly, survey respondents rated opportunities to volunteer in Bloomington at 69%, which is down from 73% last year, and 80% in 2012. This comes at a time when the demand for volunteers is higher than it’s ever been in our community. Due to COVID-19 and economic pressures, more people are turning to charitable organizations for help. Some have never asked for assistance before but must do so now to put food on the table, have a home, receive medical care, or meet countless other needs. This heightened demand for resources has pushed many charitable organizations into responding in new and different ways. Volunteers fill the gap.

Whether you are a student, career professional or retiree, the right volunteer opportunity is waiting for you. Follow your heart to what you are passionate about and connect with a nonprofit that speaks to your personal purpose. Find a place where your interests can help others. Check out a list of different community partners where you can volunteer at 

I certainly understand that these are challenging times and circumstances are much harder on some than others. Not everyone is in a position to give their time. However, if you have the ability to do so, please volunteer. Pitch in and make a difference.

Everyone gains in volunteering. It’s rewarding to step outside yourself and give your time to help others. This is how to build community, to make a greater connection to your neighbors and widen your perspective.

Volunteering is a cornerstone of community and civic engagement. The economic impact is vast but there are other benefits, too—things that can be harder to measure. It’s good for the community, good for the volunteers and good for those served. People are fed, illnesses are treated, animals are rescued, the environment is conserved—and the community is better for it.