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Residents volunteer most hours ever recorded in Columbia

Thursday, December 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA – Residents gave more of their time to the city than ever recorded before, offering 47,387 hours of service to the city government during the 2009 fiscal year.

Columbia has kept track of volunteer hours since the Office of Volunteer Services was created in 1997, and the 2009 fiscal year had the greatest number of volunteer hours tracked so far.

Details on the year’s volunteer services were presented at the Dec. 7 City Council meeting.

This is a 9.4 percent increase from 2008’s volunteer hours. Leigh Britt, the city's manager of neighborhood services, attributes this rise to “stronger volunteer programs and a great interest in volunteer service.”

Independent Sector, a coalition of charitable groups, values one hour of volunteer service at $20.25, and based on this value, the city estimates the total time given by volunteers adds up to a value of $959,586.75.

An Office of Volunteer Services news release estimated that more than 6,000 people volunteered.

Both the Public Works Department and Parks and Recreation Department saw an increase in volunteer hours. The Parks and Recreation Department had the largest number of volunteer hours totaling 13,698 hours, Britt said.

The program that attracted the most volunteers was the Adopt-A-Spot beautification beds program. The program helps maintain landscapes by weeding, planting and mulching, Britt said. There are currently 92 adopted spots.

Other programs included Cleanup Columbia, in which 1,702 volunteers spent 3,342 hours collecting litter, and the Adapted Community Recreation program at Paquin Towers, where volunteers spent 4,000 hours.

Members of the City Council spent 1,313 hours of volunteering at meetings and members of boards and commissions gave more than 4,076 hours.

The 2009 budget for the Office of Volunteer Services was $202,530.55. The office’s goal is to “connect citizens with opportunities to serve in city government,” Britt said.

Britt said a diverse group volunteered, including students, families, retirees and businesses.

“Different activities appeal to different people,” Britt said.

Upcoming city volunteer events include the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration First Night and TreeKeepers, which includes taking a class on how to care for and maintain trees. After the class, volunteers are asked to serve 36 hours in parks, Britt said.  The program occurs in late January.

Those interested in volunteering for the city can call 874-7499 or  go to www.gocolumbiamo.com/volunteer.


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