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Minnesota ranks third, North Dakota No. 10 in volunteerism

People on both sides of the Red River are generous with their time, according to a recent report on nationwide volunteer rates. According to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Minnesota ranked third and North Dakota...

People on both sides of the Red River are generous with their time, according to a recent report on nationwide volunteer rates.

According to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Minnesota ranked third and North Dakota 10th for volunteer rates during the past three years.

From 2005 to 2007, 178,000 volunteers in North Dakota dedicated 15.2 million hours of service per year, according to the report. The estimated economic contribution of the volunteer hours served is $296 million each year. On average, Minnesota's 1.6 million volunteers gave 175.7 million hours of service per year during the past three years, with an estimated economic contribution of $3.4 billion annually.

Nationwide, Minneapolis-St. Paul was No. 1 among larger cities with a 39.3 percent volunteer rate. Miami was in last place among the major metropolitan areas with a volunteer rate of 14.5 percent.

In Grand Forks, the number of volunteers per year or the hours they put in have not been tracked on a citywide basis, according to Kurtis Shelton, Grand Forks FirstLink coordinator. FirstLink is a Fargo-based organization that, among other things, connects people who want to volunteer with volunteer opportunities. In addition to Grand Forks, FirstLink also has satellite offices in Minot and Dickinson, N.D.

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Shelton started with FirstLink in March and said he's already witnessed the giving nature of the people of Grand Forks.

"I just worked with the Art Fest, and it was pretty amazing how these people came together and gave so many hours of their time," he said. "It's pretty amazing to me how people step up and work without any desire of any recognition at all. And it spans all ages, from middle school up to retired people; it's pretty neat for me to see."

FirstLink will have a role in keeping track of volunteers in the community during the next year as part of Mayor Mike Brown's "Million Hour Challenge," according to Pete Haga, Brown's assistant. FirstLink and the Impact Foundation both are lined up to help get the challenge going, he said. The idea is to track all of the volunteers in the community and the hours they give. The challenge is to make it to 1 million hours of volunteer service in Grand Forks in one year.

Right now, there are no numbers to report as part of that challenge, Haga said.

"We're using the summer months to set up some partnerships and fine-tune the tracking system," he said. "You can expect a pretty big push in the fall to really get the campaign off the ground and running.

"The challenge isn't necessarily a motivator -- the motivation (to volunteer) is already out there," Haga said.

For example, Altru Health System has more than 300 volunteers per year, with an average of 25,000 volunteer hours, according to Heather Werner, volunteer services manager.

Volunteers at Altru range in age from 14 years and older, and include UND medical students, married couples, families and the elderly, Werner said. Many of those people continue to volunteer year after year.

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"We have one volunteer who has been here for 30 years," Werner said.

By region

By region, the Midwest had the highest volunteer rate at 31.1 percent, followed by the West at 26.1, the South with 24.7 and the Northeast with 23.4.

By state, Utah had the highest rate, 43.9 percent, followed by Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska and Montana. Nevada had the lowest state rate, 17.7 percent; Florida and New York were the next lowest.

Nationally, the volunteer rate fell in 2007 for the second year in a row, to 26.2 percent.

Rapid turnover is a problem across the country, and one of the reasons the national rate dropped again in 2007 after reaching 28.8 percent in 2005. In all, 60.8 million Americans 16 and older performed roughly 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service in 2007.

The report concluded that "volunteer intensity" is increasing, with 34 percent of volunteers contributing more than 100 hours of service in a year -- the highest rate for that category since 2002. But there were concerns that economic woes -- including high gasoline prices and job insecurity -- would be deterrents for some would-be volunteers.

The CNCS, an independent federal agency, used Census Bureau data to determine its state and city rankings, which are based on three-year averages for 2005 through 2007.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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