Volunteering to Sustain Cape Cod

Allen Larson




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Page last updated

October 02, 2008

Editor's note: The article below originally appeared on the Larson Report as a From the Editor in December 2004.



If there is one indicator of the quality of life in any region that best defines it, it's volunteerism.  And if there is one segment of life on Cape Cod that is at times overlooked as an essential underpinning of our community, it's the nonprofit sector.  Although clearly recognized both as a provider of wide-ranging services to people and as an advocate of social concerns, the nonprofit sector is less often credited as a significant employer, purchaser of goods and services, and source of innovation and ideas.  The sector includes hospitals, schools, chambers of commerce, youth groups, symphonies, choral groups, libraries, service clubs, environmental organizations, wildlife and animal protection groups, land trusts, think tanks, conservation groups, museums, art guilds, and many more organizations that make up the fabric of the life we live.

Each of us has volunteered at some time and in some capacity.  Apart from the forty or so volunteers that support the operations of the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod, there are many more who assist the various youth teams and leagues that the club organizes.  The Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School can call on more than three hundred volunteers to assist the programs of instruction, youth development, sports and music, and other activities that contribute to the mid-Cape community.  And when you compile these numbers across the more than a thousand nonprofit organizations conservatively estimated to operate here, the number is staggering.  It swells even more when you add to it the number of people who volunteer in the context of their houses of worship.

In preparing the two sustainability-indicator reports that the Cape Cod Center for Sustainability has published in the past ten years, we have relied almost exclusively on volunteer input.  Furthermore, in the last few years, more than 150 volunteers have contributed their knowledge, experience, energy, advice, counseling, networking, technical expertise, and professional services to the center’s efforts.  And we're building our organization on this support.

Ironically, however, neither of our publications listed volunteering as an indicator that we should track to monitor what is happening in our community.  Fortunately, while we were overlooking its importance, others were not.  An ad hoc group began meeting more than a year ago under the auspices of the Cape Cod & Islands United Way to establish a volunteer center called CapeCorps.  The newly formed group went on immediately to organize and host the Volunteer Expo last spring where we observed the value of the programs that utilize the time and talents of the volunteers in our region.  This group will reconvene on April 26, 2005, for the second annual Volunteer to Sustain Cape Cod Expo.  We’re looking forward to this opportunity to learn more about the projects that the volunteer center and the nonprofits already have in the works as well as those they have planned for the future.  

From these interactions and subsequent discussions with the United Way and CapeCorps advisors, we began to look for the best way we could help to firmly establish CapeCorps.  We offered to assume the administrative and fiduciary duties for CapeCorps, which would allow the United Way to focus on its core priority, that of raising funds to support other service programs across the Cape and islands.  They accepted our offer, and now we're committed to making this happen.  We'll need help.

We'll look for other nonprofits and individuals to provide training.  We'll ask other businesses and associations to help us obtain the expertise in technology we need to develop an accurate database of volunteers and volunteer opportunities. Our goal is to develop CapeCorps' capacity as a clearinghouse of information that connects busy people with organizations.  In this way, we can expand the capacity of the Cape's nonprofit sector.

Volunteering is a wonderful indicator of our overall quality of life.  It suggests the extent to which the underpinnings of a community -- its security,  job opportunities, health care services, recreation outlets, education, and so on -- are in good shape.  Our commitment to establish CapeCorps stems from our desire to make volunteer resources more broadly and readily available.  And to the extent that we achieve this end, we will expand the capacity of the Cape's nonprofit sector.  On Cape Cod, the greatest resource we have is our deep reservoir of people willing to volunteer.  Want to help?

—Allen R. Larson




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