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Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Helping Hands?

If you live in Minneapolis, you're more likely to volunteer to help others in your community than if you live in other metro areas, says a report out today by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

It's not that people in those cities are necessarily kinder or gentler. They just have the right circumstances for volunteering: They feel connected to their communities, have more education, own their own homes, spend less time commuting and have more opportunities to give back, the report says.

For instance, 70% of Minneapolis-area families own their own homes. It had the highest overall volunteer rate at 40.5%, says the report. By contrast, Honolulu, where only 49% own homes, ranked 42nd with a 23.3% rate of volunteering.

Residents of cities where people spend a lot of time commuting or live in apartments, by contrast, tend to feel less connected to their communities, so they don't volunteer as much. Cities that ranked lowest are New York, Miami and Las Vegas.

Residents of rural areas volunteer more than urban areas, the report says.

This is the first time it has ranked cities.

Communities may not be able to do anything right away to improve such structural impediments as education levels or homeownership rates, Grimm says, but they can come up with creative solutions such as urging businesses to allow more telecommuting and helping organizations reach out in new ways for instance, online.

Why would communities care where they rank?  There is a growing amount of research that has been demonstrating that volunteering is not something  that's just nice to do in the community.

Volunteers contribute about 8.2 billion hours worth about $152 billion a year and also provide instrumental help to schools and mentoring programs, he says. If that's not enough reason to go out and do good, volunteering is actually good for you, says Stephen Post, a bioethics professor at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine in Cleveland.

With baby boomers rapidly aging, volunteering will become even more important.  Seniors, who are increasingly retiring where they are planted, are becoming much more active as volunteers.

The corporation, an independent federal agency which also runs AmeriCorps, based the report on phone and in-person interviews with 180,000 households conducted by the Census Bureau each September from 2004 to 2006.

Metro areas with the most helping hands

The 50 metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of residents ages 16 and older who volunteered in 2006:

Rank Metro area %.
1 Minneapolis-St. Paul 40.5%
2 Salt Lake City 38.4%
3 Austin 38.1%
4 Omaha 37.8%
5 Seattle 36.3%
6 Portland, Ore. 35.8%
7 Kansas City 34.9%
8 Milwaukee 34.4%
9 Charlotte 34.3%
10 Tulsa 33.7%
11 Cincinnati 33.4%
12 Columbus, Ohio 33.3%
13 Pittsburgh 32.6%
14 Bridgeport, Conn. 32.3%
15 Washington 31.9%
16 Louisville 31.6%
17 Denver 31.5%
18 St. Louis 30.9%
19 Nashville 30.5%
20 Dallas 30.3%
20 Oklahoma City 30.3%
22 New Haven, Conn. 30.2%
23 Hartford, Conn. 29.6%
23 San Francisco 29.6%
25 San Diego 29.2%
26 Baltimore 28.6%
27 Albuquerque 27.8%
28 Indianapolis 27.7%
29 Richmond, Va. 27.6%
30 Boston 27.5%
30 Cleveland 27.5%
32 Chicago 27.4%
32 San Jose, Calif. 27.4%
34 Detroit 27.0%
35 San Antonio 26.7%
36 Philadelphia 26.6%
37 Sacramento 26.5%
38 Atlanta 26.1%
39 Houston 25.8%
39 Tampa 25.8%
41 Phoenix 23.5%
42 Honolulu 23.3%
42 Providence 23.3%
44 Los Angeles 22.3%
45 Orlando 22.2%
46 Riverside, Calif. 20.6%
47 Virginia Beach 19.3%
48 New York 18.7%
49 Miami 16.1%
50 Las Vegas 14.4%

Source: Volunteering in America: 2007 City Trends and Rankings by the Corporation for National and Community Service


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