Arianna Huffington Wants us to Volunteer
By Arianna Huffington
Beyond the obvious numbers—close to 9 percent unemployment, 6,600 foreclosures a day—the depressing indicators keep piling up. The United Way saw a 68 percent increase in the number of calls for basic needs such as food, shelter and warm clothes during the past year. More than 32 million people in the US are currently receiving food stamps, more than one in 10. Making matters worse is the fact that increased need is concurrent with a decrease in government programs and charitable services. The combination has led to a growing sense of anxiety, uncertainty and fear. “The first thing we see in times like this,” Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton told me, “is a rise in domestic violence.”
Adding to the volatility, gun ownership is on the rise. According to FBI data, gun sales in February 2009 were 23 percent higher than in February 2008. You can see America’s already-frayed safety net coming apart, strand by strand. That is why it is so urgent to buttress the government programs and charitable groups struggling to provide resources to the growing pool of those in need.
The passage of President Obama’s plan to expand service in America should be a Congressional priority. It would increase the number of full-time national service positions from 75,000 to 250,000. These positions have an exponential impact on the recruitment of unpaid volunteers. In 2008, 75,000 AmeriCorps members mobilized and led 2.2 million community volunteers. Not only does volunteering meet a pressing need, it also allows us to expand boundaries of caring beyond ourselves. And there is the additional psychological advantage for those who’ve lost jobs—they can use their skills to help others while dealing with their own harsh economic realities. As America’s misery index soars, so must our empathy index.
photograph by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage.com (HUFFINGTON)
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.