Volunteerism and Community Service in America Today Essay

4261 Words 18 Pages
“Volunteers are not paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” - Sherry Anderson (Volunteering Quotes: Finest Quotes).


Part I: Volunteerism and Community Service in the United States

Research shows that when Americans are "properly asked to serve", they serve, says the Corporation for National and Community Service, on their website dedicated to U.S. volunteerism(Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2014). The question, then, is what does "properly asked to serve" consist of.

If the government issues a call to all able United States citizens to donate a mere three to five hours a week to a teen-mentoring, child-tutoring, or other volunteer program for the benefit of the country and the good of
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The complicated part is that it is not easy volunteer work. As Alten claims, "What Powell and Clinton are talking about is not. . .writing a check to a museum or volunteering to be an usher at the community theater." Serious, productive volunteer work takes time, motivation, and commitment.

Let's pretend, in an ideological fantasy, that we have it, this abundance of committed volunteers who, at the call of Mr. Powell, generously and dutifully become a personal mentor for an at-risk child. To be sure, the lives of many of these children would improve. The drop-out and pregnancy rates might decline a bit, and society might feel the reverberations of a few more promising young lives. But what part of the problem are we "fixing" by this method? Are we digging at the roots of the weeds or merely pruning off the tips? Damming the source of the flood waters or merely plugging holes in the dike? Volunteer work, for all its mutual benefits and noble qualities, cannot put back together broken families. It cannot heal the wounds and scars of violence and abuse. It cannot resolve the polarization of the rich and poor or bring the dominant and the oppressed into harmony, at least not single-handedly. Alten recognizes this, pointing out that "volunteerism has its limits" and "charity must not be seen as a substitute for government." As we offer to mentor and tutor young children whose mothers work long hours and have…