Tulsa area's volunteerism exceeds national average, report shows
BY MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
2/12/13 at 7:10 AM
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In his earlier years Frank Baxter thought that he would retire and play golf every day. But as he approached retirement, his plan changed.
"I knew I was retiring with the purpose of volunteering full time at The Little Light House," Baxter said.
He had come in contact with the organization, which provides educational and therapeutic services for children with special needs from birth to age 6, and quickly fell in love with the place.
Baxter spends between 30 and 36 hours a week at The Little Light House. Over the years he's worked with the kids in their classrooms and in the gym and helped to maintain the building.
"Whatever they need I'll do it," he said. "I once had a boss say he couldn't wait to get to work in the morning. Now I know how he felt."
It's volunteers like Baxter who allow area organizations to maximize the impact they have on the community.
Despite a dip in the percentage of volunteers, Tulsa still ranks above the national average.
Tulsa had an average volunteer rate in 2011 of 29.3 percent compared to the national average of 26.8 percent, according to the latest Volunteering and Civic Life in America Report.
A similar report studying 2009 data had the Tulsa volunteer rate at 31.4 percent.
Tulsa ranks 39th in volunteer rate among midsized cities, compared to 28th in 2009.
"Because our volunteers are working multiple jobs, going to school, it's amazing that they're able to offer themselves to our local community," said Brenda Michael-Haggard, executive director of Volunteer Tulsa. "We have seen that many local residents who used to be donors and volunteers are finding themselves on the receiving end, and when you and I are trying to survive, the time, energy and ability to help someone else just might not be at hand."
The city did see an increase in the annual service hours per resident with 31.4 volunteer hours in 2011 compared to 30.6 in 2009.
In Oklahoma the estimated financial value of a volunteer hour is $17.49.
"Every minute that a volunteer gives to someone else allows the organization to extend their services and leverage their resources," Michael-Haggard said.
In Tulsa the estimated impact of volunteering is $467 million each year.
"Local organizations can only fulfill their missions when residents offer time, talent and expertise," Michael-Haggard said.
Charis Rutherford, volunteer coordinator at The Little Light House, agreed.
The school has about 200 classroom volunteers who put in 300 to 350 hours per week. During the course of a year, as many as 600 volunteers pitch in.
"We are almost a volunteer-run organization, down from bathrooms being cleaned, trash getting taken out and carpets getting cleaned, everything is done off of donated time," Rutherford said. "The volunteers are what keep our doors open."
Statewide, Oklahoma ranks 20th in volunteering rates with 29.3 percent and 28th in volunteer hours with 32.6 volunteer hours per resident for a combined 92.5 million hours of service with an estimated value of $2 billion.
Oklahomans give most of their time - 46 percent - to religious organizations.
"Nationally most volunteering occurs with religious and faith-based organizations, and that holds true here," Michael-Haggard said.
The report also shows that 69.2 percent of Oklahomans do favors for neighbors, 92.6 percent eat dinner with family a few times a week or more, and almost half of Americans - 44.1 percent - actively participate in civic, religious and school groups.
|Mid-size cities ||Volunteer rate||Rank out of 75 cities||Hours per resident||Rank out of 75 cities|
|Large cities||Volunteer rate||Rank out of 51 cities||Hours per resident||Rank out of 39 cities|
|Kansas City, Mo.||31||13||29.2||24|
Original Print Headline: Lending a hand
Mike Averill 918-581-8489
Heidi Warren (left) and volunteer Frank Baxter help Heidi's son Landon Warren, 3, onto a tricycle in the gym at The Little Light House in Tulsa last week. Baxter helps with building maintenance, mail delivery and anything else the school may need. CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Tulsa World
Volunteer Frank Baxter measures windows Friday at The Little Light House in Tulsa. Baxter spends 30-36 hours a week helping at the school. CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Tulsa World
Frank Baxter checks a wheelchair at The Little Light House. CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Tulsa World