Volunteers Save City of Mesa Nearly $5M


Mesa volunteers may not make much — or, well, anything — but they sure are valuable.

The city’s extensive volunteer base provided the equivalent of nearly $5 million worth of work during Fiscal Year 2013-14, according to data recently shared by Mesa’s Neighborhood Outreach Office.

That’s more than 233,000 hours spent cleaning, painting, manning committees and helping execute city events, among other projects.

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Commercial Facilities Department racked up the most volunteer help, with more than 42,000 service hours. The Mesa Arts Center came second with about 38,000 volunteer hours, followed by Diversity and Neighborhood Outreach with about 33,000. Mesa Police Department volunteers served 26,549 hours. 

“What impressed me about the numbers … is that they continue moving in such a positive trend in these much better economic times,” City Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said. “The community really stepped up its volunteer efforts when we had the significant budget and staff cuts during the Great Recession, but their efforts have not let up even though our financial situation is much better than it was.”

Volunteer hours have held relatively steady since 2009, according to Mesa volunteer-program coordinator Michelle Alvis-White, who said she regularly receives calls from other U.S. cities asking how Mesa achieves such consistent community engagement.

“A lot of other cities are bigger than we are, but they don’t have the level of involvement we do,” she said.

Alvis-White noted Fiscal 2013-14 saw the introduction of two popular volunteer programs.

The Love Your Block initiative, which works to revitalize Mesa neighborhoods one block at a time, debuted after Mesa received $25,000 from the national Cities of Service coalition. It drew more than 800 volunteers who worked on 40-plus projects in 27 neighborhoods.

They painted more than 31,000 square-feet of housing and community space; removed more than 43 tons of waste; and reported more than 9,000 square feet of graffiti for cleanup.

Over the summer, the Arizona Museum of Natural History launched a service program for teens, ultimately taking on 50 volunteers who provided about 1,400 hours of help.

The teenagers assisted with the galleries’ interactive portions, teaching visitors how to pan for gold and leading crafts for kids. They also helped lead a “prehistoric preschool” camp and establish a story-time program for small children.

“Residents contribute to building their community and maintaining quality neighborhoods and programs through their volunteerism,” Alvis-White said, adding she was “thankful for the generosity of Mesa residents who are willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer their time.”

As the city’s scorching summer temperatures begin to ease off, Mesa will be looking to recruit more volunteers for Love Your Block, as well as the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance and October’s Make A Difference Day.

The Parks, Recreation and Commercial Facilities Department is seeking volunteers for youth sports as well, among other fall activities.

Want to help? Search for openings at mesaaz.gov/volunteer.

by Maria Polletta, The Republic | azcentral.com