Twin Cities and MN top of the list for volunteers

Volunteers pack up donated carriers.
In this Dec. 16, 2015 file photo Josie Meyer, of Crystal, helps pack a shipment of child carriers headed to Greece to help parents fleeing the Middle East.
Tim Nelson | MPR News 2015

A new federal report ranks Minnesota second among states for volunteering, just behind Utah.

Cities were compared separately and in that ranking the Twin Cities came in first in the nation for volunteers per capita.

Wendy Spencer is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. The agency compiled the rankings using US Census Bureau data.

Spencer said that food collection and tutoring were top volunteer activities in Minnesota. She also said that volunteering is more important now than ever.

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"(When you volunteer), you're focused on the problem right in front of you and you learn about people and you become more compassionate about others' differences, more tolerant of others. And that unifies our nation," said Spencer.

The report estimates that Minnesota's volunteers contributed $3.3 billion worth of services in 2015.

Spencer said the metro area's high graduation rate and numerous nonprofits contribute to the Twin Cities' high volunteer rate and that it's "just a wonderful region of caring about neighbors and caring about others."

Karmit Bulman isn't surprised by the results.

As the executive director of the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration, she knows that volunteerism has always been strong across the state.

What Bulman worries about is support for those volunteers.

"There is not a state-funded initiative to promote volunteerism."

Her organization helps other organizations increase volunteerism. She said support from the state went away during the Ventura administration.

Bulman hopes that will change in the coming legislative session when she and others introduce a bill to bring more support to organizations that depend on volunteers.

"I often remind people that volunteerism is just not people who go into organizations and give up their time," Bulman said. "It's all the folks who are working with Black Lives Matters, those are volunteers. It's the protesters who are saying, 'we want social change.' These are volunteers."

Bulman said that it's crucial to support these volunteers so that Minnesota can close the multiple equity gaps the state is facing in education, employment, and other areas.