Sept. 11 volunteer day draws big response in Raleigh

mgarfield@newsobserver.comSeptember 8, 2012 

  • A sampling of projects Bugg Elementary School garden: Volunteers will prepare or extend garden beds at the Southeast Raleigh school, which wants to foster environmental stewardship and encourage healthy lifestyle choices among students. Urban Ministries of Wake County: Volunteers will help maintain the food pantry and facility at the nonprofit on Capital Boulevard. The organization provides help with food, shelter and health care. City of Raleigh parks department: Volunteers will beautify downtown parks including Moore Square and Chavis Park. To sign up: Visit activategood.org.

— More than 1,000 people have committed to take part in a citywide day of volunteering on Sept. 11, an outpouring that surprised organizers who did not expect the first-year event to flourish so quickly.

Employees from at least 25 companies will fan out across Raleigh to repair homes, prepare school gardens and clean up neighborhood playgrounds – all part of a national movement to honor victims and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A local nonprofit called Activate Good teamed with the city and Downtown Raleigh Alliance to promote the initiative. Some projects have filled up; others still need volunteers. Visit activategood.org for details.

“We started this thinking maybe we’d do about 10 projects,” said Lacie Lindstaedt, a DRA manager. “Those filled up within two weeks. At one point, I didn’t have enough projects for all the companies that were calling.”

Organizers have since added more projects in places such as Chavis Park, where volunteers will rake leaves, spread mulch, clear overgrown brush and clean off playground equipment. As of Friday, 39 projects were scheduled.

Even employees stuck in the office can contribute by signing up for online tutoring sessions with area students.

LS3P Associates, a local architectural firm, will give employees a half-day of paid time off to work in a garden run by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, said Rick Peele, the firm’s director of business development.

“More and more, we’re trying to give locally as opposed to the national organizations where you don’t get to touch and feel it,” Peele said. “You get a sense that you’re making a difference.”

Many other communities have launched similar initiatives. In 2009, Congress designated Sept. 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance after 9/11 family members and support groups asked for a forward-looking way to recognize the anniversary.

“We’ve done day of services before and we’ve always gotten a good response,” said Brittany Bryan, head of marketing for Activate Good. “But I don’t know that we could’ve anticipated this type of outpouring.”

Boosting volunteer rate

Activate Good calls itself a “force multiplier,” a volunteer clearinghouse for the 21st century.

Volunteers and nonprofits create profiles that are posted on the Activate Good website. People can sign up to volunteer, post pictures and video, and connect with other volunteers and opportunities.

The group works with more than 80 nonprofits in Wake County and has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers since it started in 2005.

Activate Good focuses on Wake County because the county has a lower rate of volunteerism than others in the Triangle, says co-founder and president Amber Smith.

According to the website VolunteeringinAmerica.gov, which collects volunteer data through the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21.4 percent of residents in the Raleigh-Cary metro area volunteer, compared to 30 percent in the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area.

Overall, North Carolina is ranked 44th in the percentage of residents who volunteer, and 47th in the number of hours each resident donates, according to the website.

Garfield: 919-836-4952

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