The spirit of community service has grown stronger every year since Congress enacted the National and Community Service Act of 1990. From President Bush’s Points of Light Award to President Obama’s United We Serve initiative, successive presidents have helped to strengthen this part of the American cultural fabric. After Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated as a national day of service in 1994, Americans everywhere worked to make it not a day off but a day on.
Participants in the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program also get to experience this element of American civic identity. As an optional part of the visitor’s program, some volunteer with local organizations not only on Martin Luther King Jr. Day but throughout the year. Since 2013 Meridian International Center has tracked the volunteer activities of our visitors across the country. Here are the top five volunteer locations by city and state.
Highest Volunteer Hours by City Highest Volunteer Hours by State
1. Seattle 171 1. Washington 171
2. Portland 127 2. California 144
3. Chicago 106 3. Oregon 140.5
4. Atlanta 95 4. Illinois 106
5. Washington 71 5. Georgia 95
The willingness of the participants to volunteer confirms our common desire to help where help is needed. Most have never previously visited the communities where they volunteer. Most may never visit that particular community again. But the impact of their service in the community remains and their memory of shared service travels back home with them.
Whether it’s with the Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails in Albuquerque, NM, MedWish in Cleveland, OH, Genesis Gardens in Austin, TX, Jackson Hole Jaycees Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast in Jackson, WY or at the Capital Area Food Bank right here in Washington, DC the experiences and options for service are endless.