How volunteering helps communities, the region and the environment

Don Pearson is Wells Fargo's regional president for Oregon and Southwest Washington.

I’m fortunate to serve as Wells Fargo’s regional president for Oregon and Southwest Washington. So whenever people see news like Wells Fargo contributing $315.8 million to communities nationwide in 2012, they ask me, “What does that mean for this region and for me personally?”

My answer: A lot.

Last year Wells Fargo team members in Oregon and southwest Washington volunteered 75,605 hours, including my 365 hours. That's $1.64 million worth of time (using the value of a volunteer hour, as determined by the nonprofit Independent Sector).

Some of my favorite places to volunteer in Oregon include SOLVE, which mobilizes volunteers for projects to improve the environment; Habitat for Humanity affiliates, which build affordable homes for low-income families; New Avenues for Youth in downtown Portland, which serves homeless youths; the Oregon Food Bank; and the Salvation Army's White Shield in Portland, a home and school for unwed teenage girls who are either pregnant or have already given birth.

Why do I volunteer so much? Volunteering helps local nonprofits extend their resources. The funds that we donate to SOLVE help buy supplies, but it still needs volunteers to pick up the litter at Oregon’s beaches and rivers to keep the water clean for fish and people.

The money Habitat for Humanity receives from Wells Fargo is great, but all that lumber and other supplies won't become homes unless volunteers pick up a hammer and build with them.

New Avenues for Youth is a similar situation. Sure, our contributions of money buy food but it only becomes meals for homeless youth when it's cooked by volunteers.

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