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Volunteerism is lifeblood of community
volunteers: nonprofit lifeblood

Volunteerism is lifeblood of community

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Marc Cook was on his way to take a science exam at Langston University in October 2002 when he felt a pop in his head.

He pulled over and laid on the horn.

"Someone came up to me and asked what I needed. I said 'I need an ambulance and please tell my wife and kids that I love them,' " he said.

Cook suffered a brain aneurism and would spend the next 10 days in a coma before starting long-term rehabilitation.

During his rehab he came in contact with The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges. The impact that the center made on him was so profound that he hasn't left, choosing to spend the last five years as a volunteer music instructor and offering a hand wherever one is needed.

"You think you've got it bad? You need to come check out the people here," Cook said. "This helps put things into perspective."

The nonprofit center offers a wide range of wellness and recreational programs and rehabilitative services for people with physical challenges.

Before the aneurism Cook worked as a musician in local bands. Now he spends several hours a week teaching beginning and intermediate guitar to clients at the center.

Margie Crossno, programs and volunteer services coordinator with the center, said that volunteers like Cook play a role in 95 percent of the nearly 80 classes and programs the agency offers.

"We would not have the programs we offer without volunteers," she said.

Nor would many of the nonprofit agencies in Oklahoma and the Tulsa area.

Oklahoma ranks 26th in volunteer rates at 27.7 percent and 27th with 35.3 volunteer hours per resident annually. In 2012, Tulsa had an average volunteer rate of 28.4 percent compared to 28.1 percent in Oklahoma City and better than the national average of 26.5, according to the latest statistics from Volunteering and Civic Life in America, a detailed report on volunteering trends, civic life and demographics in all 50 states.

Last year volunteers logged in an estimated 200,000 hours of service locally. At the estimated hourly rate of $18.28 in Oklahoma, that equates to more than $3.6 million in volunteer services, said Brenda Michael-Haggard, executive director of Volunteer Tulsa.

"We know that is just touching the edge because volunteers serve informally and in our part of the world service is just a way of life," Michael-Haggard said. "Our communities run on volunteerism and in the Tulsa area it's a marketable currency. Many organizations would be even more greatly challenged to offer their programs and services if volunteers weren't leading, planning, showing up, teaching and sharing."

Michael-Haggard said volunteer opportunities cover a broad spectrum, from mentoring to tutoring to yard work to administrative work.

"We sit down with those looking to get involved and explore a passion or an interest or a past experience and begin to put together service goals and ways they can be fulfilled while benefiting the community," she said.

Darla Bennett had been volunteering at the Performing Arts Center when she decided to look for additional opportunities. She went to Volunteer Tulsa and was connected with the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges because it was close to her home.

She started helping out in the horticulture class, but when that didn't work she found her niche in the sewing and ceramics classes.

In addition to the PAC and center, Bennett has started volunteering with the Linnaeus Teaching Garden.

"I worked all my life and retired kind of early and thought that there were a lot of things to do out there, so I started looking for them," she said. "It's wonderful. There's always something to do in this town."

Mike Averill 918-581-8489

Regional volunteerism

Mid-size cities volunteer rate hours per resident (rank out of 75 cities)
Tulsa 28.4 percent (42) 36.1 (34)
Wichita 32.1 percent (27) 29.8 (58)
Little Rock 26.8 percent (50) 28.8 (62)
Large cities volunteer rate hours per resident (rank out of 51 cities)
Oklahoma City 28.1 percent (21) 27.6 (41)
Kansas City, Mo. 31 percent (11) 30.9 (32)
Dallas 27.5 percent (25) 32.1 (28)

Source: Volunteering and Civic Life in America

To learn more

For information on how to volunteer, call 918-447-1888 or go online to


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