Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — Cleaning up graffiti, working with animals, ushering at the symphony — you name it, and volunteers in Salt Lake County do it, saving taxpayers millions of dollars and helping understaffed programs keep their doors open.
Salt Lake County released its latest volunteer statistics this week showing that residents volunteered more than 950,000 hours of their time in 2010. It's the effort of these volunteers that help the lights from going out on programs like Meals on Wheels, parks and recreation and even the Clark Planetarium.
"It's easy for me to do it because the cause is great, it's educating children," said Clark Planetarium volunteer Charlotte Wakefield.
Wakefield and other volunteers help raise money to fund the planetarium's educational outreach programs. That helps bring 60,000 elementary students to visit every year, free of charge, and gives 500 teachers astronomy- teaching kits.
"I don't think you can save the world, but if everybody does a little bit it just sure makes life better for a lot of people," said Aging Services volunteer Chuck Westfahl, of Draper.
Westfahl takes seniors to and from the grocery store every week.But he's endeared himself to those he serves by doing so much more. Using his own money, he buys $15 gift certificates he raffles off every week and even bought a plane ticket so one woman could visit her family in Minnesota.
I don't think you can save the world, but if everybody does a little bit it just sure makes life better for a lot of people.
–- Chuck Westfahl, volunteer
"He is just a wonderful, wonderful man," said Salt Lake County resident Nancy Dixon. "It makes the trip to the grocery store a real pleasure."
But Westfahl says he's the one who benefits the most.
"I think I have more fun with it and get more out of it than they do," Westfahl said.
More than 20,000 residents volunteered in 2011, and their work was the equivalent of 457 full-time employees.
"We literally could not function without our volunteers," said Salt Lake County Volunteer Services Director Sheryl Ivey.
Utah has been the No. 1 state for volunteering for six years running, according to the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"The savings to the county on an annual basis is well over $20 million," Ivey said.
And the opportunities range from coaching youth sports, to taking care of parks.
"We can find an opportunity for you, be it a group or an individual whether you want to do it one hour, period, or whether you want to be involved three days a week for the rest of your life," Ivey said. "We have every opportunity available."
The county has new volunteer opportunities for physicians, educators and garden assistants.