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Utah tops nation for voluntarism 8 years running

SALT LAKE CITY — Call it Utah’s eight-peat.

For the eighth consecutive year, the Beehive State was recognized as the top state for voluntarism, according to the Volunteering and Civic Life in America report for 2013.

The Corp. for National and Community Service reports 47.7 percent of Utah adults volunteer, up from 40.9 percent last year.

Utah’s volunteer rate far exceeds the national average of 26.5 percent, which dropped slightly from the previous year, the report said.

LaDawn Stoddard, executive director of the Utah Commission on Service and Volunteerism, said Utah’s No. 1 ranking is not surprising, given previous years’ reports.

But it was heartening that Utah’s rate of voluntarism “increased or maintained consistency” even as the national average fell, Stoddard said during a news conference Monday.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox urged Utahns to seek out volunteer opportunities outside “their comfort zones.”

“What is significant is voluntarism is increasing. I think that says a lot about the culture and the great people of this state. We’re not satisfied with just being No. 1, that there is room for improvement,” he said.

Cox said the percentage of Utahns who volunteer in Utah classrooms is particularly significant in a state in which per-pupil school funding is among the lowest in the county.

"We're making up for that with volunteers in the classroom. Well above 50 percent of our parents are volunteering in the classroom, where the national average is about 37 percent," he said.

Aside from reading with and tutoring students, parents who serve in classrooms are role models for future generations of volunteers.

“When parents are volunteering, they’re passing on those values to their children, which means we see generational voluntarism. The next generation will continue to volunteer if they see their parents doing it," Cox said.

State officials announced Utah's latest rankings at Candy Cane Corner, 1812 S. Empire Road.

Candy Cane Corner is a collaborative effort among The Road Home, Volunteers of America, Utah and YWCA Utah. The three direct service nonprofit organizations ask the community to help provide a holiday shopping experience for the families they serve. Contributions of new gifts, volunteer support or financial contributions support its efforts. Donations of new clothing for boys are needed.

Kristy Larsen, an attorney with Ray, Quinney & Nebeker was among about 10 employees of the law firm who elected to help sort donations to Candy Cane Corner instead of taking part in a litigation section meeting Monday.

This is the second year the law firm has volunteered at the store, she said.

"It's just a way to give back to the community," Larsen said. "This helps you keep perspective on what's really important and not to be so materialistic."

Stephanie Glaittli, another seasoned Candy Cane Corner volunteer, said Utah's No. 1 ranking is not surprising given the many civic-minded Utahns who give back through their churches, community organizations and schools.

Glaittli said she is a regular volunteer with the YWCA, one of the agencies that supports and refers clients in its domestic violence shelter to the store, where they can select age-appropriate toys and clothing.

Glaittli said she gives of her time and talents "because I enjoy helping other people, and this is a worthy cause. I really does feel like you're shopping," she said.