SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is as good as it gets when it comes to volunteering, but Utahns are doing even better than that.
For the 11th time, the Beehive State earned the top spot in the country for the number of people who volunteer, but also the amount of time spent doing it, according to the latest Volunteering in America study from the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that leads service, volunteering and grant-making efforts in America.
Nearly 51 percent of Utahns volunteered in 2017, according to the federal agency. It's more than the 43.2 percent of Utahns who served in 2015, and more than double the average 25 percent who volunteer across the nation.
Utah's capital city ranks third in the country, as 45 percent of all Salt Lakers volunteered in 2017. That's also up from the 36 percent who served in 2015, the data reveals.
Turns out, the hundreds of millions of hours Utahns served in 2017 helped in many ways, including in civic and religious causes, among others.
"We wouldn't be able to reach anywhere near the number of clients that we do without the help that we get," said Matthew Melville, director of homeless services for Catholic Community Services, which provides resources, including food, to the homeless. "We rely very, very heavily on our volunteer base."
St. Vincent de Paul's dining hall serves two hot meals each day, each requiring the help of 20 to 30 volunteers, who book one to two years in advance just to have the opportunity to help, said Melville. There are also people helping with projects and other services throughout the downtown organization, things that wouldn't get done without them.
"There's always a need down here," Melville said.
The need continues throughout the state, in housing, education, health care, child care, landscaping and repair, transportation, financial help, understanding the law, and more.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, "volunteering strengthens the social, civic and economic fabric of our nation." Momentum for such social impact, the organization states, is growing.
More than 77.4 million Americans served more than 6.9 billion hours in 2017. Nationally, almost one in three Americans volunteer and their service has an economic value of nearly $170.9 million, the agency reports. Its full report is expected to be released Nov. 13.
In addition to the countless projects, programs and causes Utahns contribute to, volunteers tend to give to charity at twice the rate of Americans who don't take part in serving others. They are also five times more likely than non-volunteers to belong to a group, organization or association, the federal agency finds.
Volunteers also do good for their neighborhoods and are three times more willing to do favors for neighbors and friends than people who don't volunteer, the study reports.
Melville pointed to a well-known, local barber who has donated his day off each week to provide haircuts for the homeless for the past 25 years. People in Utah, he said, are "passionate about service."
"Utah just has such a great spirit of serving those that are less fortunate," Melville said. "It's really special the way this community is. We are very, very lucky in Salt Lake to have people who are willing to give of themselves."