Where are the volunteers?

The food shelf in Hibbing is closing for good this month. It’s run out of volunteers.

“We feel bad. It’s not an easy decision to do this,” Brenda McPeak, chair of the board of the Hibbing Food Shelf, tells the Hibbing Daily Tribune. “We want to thank everyone in the community for their years of volunteerism, patronage and the wonderful donations. Without all of that, we wouldn’t have been able to survive as long as we did.”

Presumably, there aren’t fewer people who need food in Hibbing, where the mining economy has suffered for several years, but she says she could see the end coming.

“With the dwindling of the community volunteer base and resources and cost of food, it’s hard to keep things going,” she tells the paper.

The number of volunteers has dwindled, the number of people willing to serve on the food shelf’s board has dropped too.

In its last survey of volunteerism, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the percentage of people who volunteer for an organization continued its decade-long trend downward.

Women volunteered at a 27.8 percent rate; a little over 21 percent of men volunteered.

Contrary to what many believe, it’s not an effort dominated by senior citizens; 35- to 44-year-olds and 45- to 54-year-olds were the most likely to volunteer (28.9 percent and 28.0 percent), the bureau said.

Older volunteers were more likely to volunteer mainly for religious organizations than were younger volunteers. Of volunteers age 65 and over, 42.7 percent served mainly through or for a religious organization, compared with 25.4 percent of volunteers age 16 to 24.

Across all levels of educational attainment, volunteers were most likely to volunteer for religious organizations, followed by education or youth service organizations. Volunteering mainly for religious organizations decreased as education increased, from 52.7 percent of those with less than a high school diploma to 29.9 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree and higher.

Volunteering primarily for educational or youth service organizations increased with educational attainment; 19.9 percent of volunteers with less than a high school diploma volunteered for educational or youth service organizations, compared with 26.3 percent of volunteers with a bachelor’s degree and higher.

The main reason people decide to volunteer, the BLS said, is because someone asked them to.