FREEPORT, Maine — Sharing a hand and a little TLC leads Maine to rank fourth in the United States for volunteerism, according to a new report from AmeriCorps.
Donna Parkinson said she has been volunteering with the Freeport Community Center for about five years. Once a week, she volunteers her time to help out in the thrift store there.
"I have the same customers over and over, and I love to see them. It's like you build out a whole host of friends," Parkinson said.
According to AmeriCorps, 23 percent of Americans reported that they volunteered formally with a nonprofit, and 51 percent reported they volunteered informally in 2021. Maine's numbers sit well above the national average, with 34 percent of Maine residents reporting that they formally volunteer and 65 percent of residents reporting that they do so informally in 2021.
Despite Maine's high rank in volunteerism, AmeriCorps said it saw a nationwide change this year, based on its most recent report.
"The dip was significant. We saw a 7 percent decline in the number of Americans who volunteer with a nonprofit organization on a regular basis. We've just never seen anything like that," Michael Smith, CEO of AmeriCorps, said.
It's not all negative, though. The data suggest it may just be a shift in the way people are committing their time.
"We also saw an increase in Americans who volunteers informally, [such as] shoveling walkways, running to the grocery store, taking care of kids who need extra care," Smith said.
That is the type of volunteerism the Office of Elder Affairs in Portland is asking for help with.
"People can volunteer to shovel snow for an elderly neighbor. We coordinate that by neighborhood. I think we have 10 neighborhoods participating now," Linda Weare, director of the Office of Elder Affairs, said.
Nonprofits statewide are always looking for more help.
"Not only does it bring people in contact with one another, which we all need after these past years, but there are also people that have real deep needs here," Parkinson said.
If you're interested in volunteering but aren't sure how to get involved, you can find some opportunities here.