AARP Statement on the Occasion of the 2011 United Nations International Volunteer Day
By: Lee Hammond, AARP President
Publish Date: December
By Lee Hammond, AARP President
The International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (IVD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution A/RES/40/212 on December 17, 1985. Since that time, on December 5 each year, AARP has proudly celebrated International Volunteer Day.
AARP is pleased to see that International Volunteer Day now is celebrated by governments, the UN system and other civil society organizations around the world. It provides an excellent opportunity for organizations like AARP, which rely on the work of millions of volunteers, to pause, reflect, and reenergize our volunteer projects, campaigns, and contributions to economic and social development at the local, national and international levels.
AARP's volunteer efforts to make a difference have taken many forms over the years. Some of our most successful volunteer activities and programs have included:
- Advocacy and education campaigns supporting critical state and federal legislation;
- AARP's Tax-Aide program, which provides free tax preparation and filing for seniors;
- Our Driver Safety Program, which focuses on helping older adults refresh their driving skills;
- Our Senior Community Service Employment Program, that helps older adults find jobs; and,
- AARP's educator activities which help children throughout the country.
We have answered the call when natural disasters have struck. AARP members and employees responded with an extraordinary outpouring of volunteer support and financial contributions for the people affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and, more recently, the Haitian earthquake of 2010.
The overwhelming support Americans gave the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had the unintended consequence of leaving many of our local social welfare organizations short of staff. In response, AARP issued a call to all our members, staff, and volunteers to participate in a "National Day of Service" on behalf of their local community organizations. Our "Day of Service" was so widely embraced that it is now an annual event.
This year, we were one of six national Program Leaders for the 2011 National Day of Service and Remembrance -- the official national observance of the10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.
Today, more than 9 million AARP members are participating in our work as volunteers, donors, and activists. Our volunteers are providing more than $187 million in economic impact through the Tax-Aide and Driver Safety programs alone! Last year, over 32,000 Tax-Aide volunteers helped nearly 3 million people complete their tax returns.
Volunteering clearly helps older people maintain their independence, dignity, and purpose. But the benefits go both ways. It is through the efforts of our volunteers that AARP has been able to continue building its reputation and establish a stronger presence - both on the national stage and in our local communities.
One of the major challenges facing AARP in the 21st century is to keep up-to-date on volunteering.
We are committed to continue being a powerful force for social change in the United States. So, to recruit even greater numbers of volunteers among the 50+ population, we are pursuing an approach that makes opportunities to give back even more flexible and accessible. Our mantra is, "Whether you have 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 days," there are many ways you can give back.
In 2003, AARP staff and volunteer leaders formed the AARP Volunteer Engagement Project to explore what existing approaches to volunteering we needed to change and what new ones we needed to adopt. Subsequently, we created the AARP Office of Volunteer and Civic Engagement and began actively recruiting many more AARP members for volunteer activities by offering new ways to make a difference based on an individual's time, interest, community, and expertise.
Just about two years ago, we launched a new website: www.createthegood.org -- an online destination where people can connect to opportunities to serve their communities. We're very happy, so far, with how Create The Good has broadened our horizons in volunteering, and is now offering new ways to make a difference.
The "createthegood.org" website features 30 "how-to" guides or "toolkits" for service projects, such as, "Help Military Families" or "Organize a Food Drive," which can be pursued with your family, friends, neighbors, or a faith group. Other "toolkits" provide the information needed to weatherize the home of a friend or neighbor, to make someone's home safer or more comfortable, or to prepare a home for a hurricane or other emergency.
You also can search for volunteer opportunities with organizations in your own zip code -- or post volunteer opportunities of your own so that you can tap into our rapidly growing Create the Good community of people who want to help others. So, we're now able to connect those who want to serve with an enormous range of opportunities.
We are continually working to expand Create The Good opportunities. By creating a network of people giving back together, createthegood.org helps people to connect in their communities, either through online groups, or social media channels such as "Facebook" and "Twitter."
In addition to providing tools for people 50+ to explore their diverse volunteer interests, we are also creating targeted campaigns to drive action around specific issues and interests that we believe are critical in sustaining community life and building strong social ties.
Examples of these initiatives include: "Equipped to Learn" and "Operation Fight Fraud."Equipped to Learn" shows interested volunteers how to start or join a school supply drive, donating much-needed supplies to often underfunded and overwhelmed local schools. "Operation Fight Fraud" is an approach to help volunteers educate and protect vulnerable seniors from scams and predatory lending practices. By helping older adults be more aware and conscious of tricksters, precious dollars are protected.
Both of these volunteer-driven initiatives feature a designated campaign page on the CreateTheGood website, and represent substantial on-the-ground organizing efforts, with key support provided from our state offices and like-minded partner organizations.
Another example is Experience Corps, a national leader in engaging older adult tutors to improve Kindergarten to 3rd grade student literacy. This fall, Experience Corps became part of the AARP family. Students working with Experience Corps tutors experience more than 60 percent gains in two critical literacy skills -- sounding out new words and reading comprehension -- over similar students not being served by the program.
We are very, very excited about this new dimension to our volunteer work. Experience Corps is currently serving 20,000 students in disadvantaged schools. With the AARP integration, we are on a path to reach 50,000 to 100,000 students in five years, thereby becoming the largest tutoring program in the country for young children.
AARP and AARP Foundation, AARP's charitable arm, have teamed with four-time NASCAR automobile racing champion Jeff Gordon and his team, Hendrick Motorsports, on the Drive To End Hunger, an unprecedented three-year initiative to bring awareness to and address the growing problem of hunger among older Americans, including 6 million over the age of 60.
The effort engages the huge NASCAR fan base, corporations and charitable organizations. It includes a text-to-donate program and volunteer-organized food drives that are held at racetracks across the United States.
Additionally, AARP is conducting research on the causes and consequences of hunger in older Americans, and through an innovative national grant program, we are providing financial resources to help address the problem in diverse communities.
I am proud of the efforts of AARP volunteers to help meet the ever-growing needs of our society. I am grateful for the world-wide leadership of the United Nations, and I join the UN in thanking the millions of volunteers around the world who give so much to improve life for others.