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Fayetteville Honored As A 2011 Volunteer Community Of The Year

11/03/2011

Fayetteville was honored as a Volunteer Community of the Year.

Fayetteville was honored for the third year in a row as a Volunteer Community of the Year.  The award is given by The Office of Governor Mike Beebe, the Department of Human Services Division on Volunteerism, and the Arkansas Municipal League.  This award will be presented to Fayetteville at the Municipal League Annual Conference in early 2012.  Mayor Lioneld Jordan states, "Fayetteville has a strong community spirit and has long been praised for one its greatest strengths, her People. In good times and trying times, Fayetteville residents consider others and have a great solidarity of spirit.  We are a giving community, and this award is in honor of the thousands of Fayetteville volunteers who have done so much to help so many." 

The City of Fayetteville has recently adopted a slogan that was created with the contribution of volunteers, to build support for local business, but in reality it defines our community - "Find it in Fayetteville". Regardless of the need or interest, practically everyone can find what they are looking for in Fayetteville - that includes our volunteer community. Volunteers work to eliminate hunger and homelessness; educate people of all ages and abilities; care for the defenseless, abused, and ill; and ensure the health of our environment and economy for future generations. The economic difficulties of the last few years seem to have made our community even stronger through increased civic involvement and more people stepping up to volunteer their time and skills.

Volunteers in Fayetteville perform essential acts that otherwise would not be possible. Those acts vary from teaching children theater (Arts Live Theatre, to keeping seniors active through Zumba! (Fayetteville Senior Activity and Wellness Center) to providing needed medical care (LifeSource International, Washington Regional Cancer Support Home, and Fayetteville Free Clinic). Volunteers help people become employed through organizations like Life Styles, Inc. and Leadership Fayetteville programs. They educate people, young and old, about healthy lifestyles - keeping active and eating healthy through Let's Move Fayetteville, Consolidated School Health, and senior meal and exercise programs. If there was a need that wasn't being addressed, volunteers have formed a group to start addressing it, like the Feed Fayetteville group and the Trail Trekkers.  Whatever the stage of life you are in, whatever your need or situation - volunteers in Fayetteville are there. You will find it in Fayetteville.

There were approximately 30,000 active volunteers in Fayetteville that contributed more than 600,000 hours of volunteer community service in the last year.  The type of activities and services they provided touched every person in our community, either directly or indirectly. Volunteers dedicated nearly 90,000 hours to the beauty and health of environment through clean-ups, educational programming, gardening, and advocacy for clean water and clean energy. Arts and culture in Fayetteville benefited from more than 70,000 volunteer hours this past year. Increasing diversity, inclusion, justice, and education were the focus of more than 200,000 hours, and volunteers dedicated over 150,000 hours to improve the health and wellness of our community members of all ages. Volunteers dedicated over 120,000 hours to our youth through sports and recreation, education and literacy, and providing them safe places and activities.

Many organizations that rely on volunteers felt the impact of the economy a great deal this past year. Funding - whether grants, federal, state, or private donations - decreased for many non-profits in recent years. Demand for services have increased while resources have become stretched, and many organizations have had to learn how to accomplish more with less resources. But Fayetteville is a creative and innovative community. Our volunteers and organizations found creative ways to meet their missions and innovative ways to use their resources. Organizations formed more partnerships for projects, events, and services.  New events such as Fest of All were successful because of the partnerships of numerous volunteer organizations, such as the Fayetteville Forward Inclusion Group, LULAC Fayetteville Chapter, and the Omni Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology.

The efforts of our volunteers and community working together have resulted in recognition and rewards to encourage more of the same and sustain these essential community programs. The Home Depot Sustainable Cities Institute awarded Fayetteville a $500,000 grant largely due to the volunteer efforts of Fayetteville Forward groups and partnerships between the City and local non-profits. The Osher Institute at the University of Arkansas has received a $1,000,000 endowment from the Osher Foundation because of their volunteer efforts - more than 6,000 volunteer hours this year. Many other organizations have been successful at leveraging their volunteer force to gain funding and other resources they need to provide their essential services to the community. The Fayetteville Public School District began a program that is run by culinary arts students volunteering to help teach families healthy cooking. The success of that program resulted in a grant award that will allow the program to grow significantly in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Fayetteville also has a tremendous resource in the University of Arkansas. University of Arkansas students, staff, and faculty provide thousands and thousands of volunteer hours to our community every year. In order to connect with the younger generations, especially the university students, the City of Fayetteville launched the Community Link, an innovative, online resource for community-wide engagement, collaboration, and volunteer management in August 2011. Community Link takes citizen engagement to a new dimension by fostering civic culture and building a stronger communication infrastructure using technology and social media to reach a broader range of new volunteers. The goal of the Community Link is to serve as a beautifully-designed, user-friendly, clearinghouse for community service and civic engagement - and it is provided free to everyone, including the organizations that rely so heavily on volunteer support.  

This is the third year in a row that Fayetteville has been named a Volunteer Community of the Year for the State of Arkansas. Each year over 25,000 volunteers donate more than 500,000 hours to the Fayetteville community - with this year's numbers increasing. Community Link is innovative because it takes an already established volunteer community and provides a new tool - a new method for connecting the resources to those needing resources - whether it is volunteer labor, organization partners, building awareness, or getting new ideas to address ever-changing community needs. 

If you are looking for a community that exemplifies "Volunteer Community", you will find it in Fayetteville.

For more information about the Fayetteville Volunteer Community contact Julie McQuade, Community Outreach Coordinator, at (479) 575-8302 or jmcquade@ci.fayetteville.ar.us .