The research is clear that participating in service activities generates a host of benefits – for communities and for volunteers themselves.
Service can help meet community needs and strengthen community bonds. It can empower individuals to take action and make a positive difference in their communities – increasing civic engagement and participation in democratic processes.
Volunteers find that helping others helps make their own lives better. Community service can improve physical and mental health, provide personal development, and build social connections. Volunteering can even aid in career advancement — providing valuable experience that can be beneficial in the workplace while building a strong network of contacts that can be helpful in career advancement.
“Service is one of the biggest avenues to depolarization, connecting people to each other and the community.”Utah First Lady Abby Cox
As part of the Disagree Better Initiative, Utah First Lady Abby Cox is leading efforts to incorporate a service project at each of the Initiative convenings held throughout the year. At the most recent roundtable in Denver, Colorado, Governors joined convening attendees and volunteers to create food boxes for college students in need and interact with Unified Sports athletes. NGA extends a special thanks to: Community Food Share, JustServe, Special Olympics Colorado and Show Up for making this opportunity possible.
Supporting communities by donating time or money is never more important than during the holiday season, which is both a time of celebration and increased stress for individuals and families. Here are a few other Initiatives by State First Spouses that Americans can support as a way to give thanks and give back.
Approximately, 86,000 Wyoming residents struggle with food insecurity. Nearly 28,000 of those are children. Before launching the Wyoming Hunger Initiative, Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon made it her top priority to learn as much as possible about hunger and the existing nonprofit organizations already in the fight against hunger statewide. There are grassroots efforts in every Wyoming county dedicated to reducing hunger and combating food insecurity. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Wyoming Hunger Initiative was launched in October 2019 to work to prevent food insecurity by increasing awareness and support for the work of local anti-hunger organizations statewide. Nourished kids, healthy families, and thriving communities: that’s the goal of Wyoming Hunger Initiative.
Trauma Matters Delaware, a new backbone non-profit that is just developing a funding base, is a key First Chance Delaware partner. First Chance Delaware, convened by Delaware First Spouse Tracey Quillen Carney, is an initiative with three pillars: to end childhood hunger in the state; to promote early language experiences toward healthy brain development and school readiness; and to promote greater awareness of the impacts of childhood adversity; and the promise of effective prevention and early intervention strategies.
Trauma Matters Delaware serves as a hub in advancing the collective effort to prevent and heal trauma. Their vision is that in Delaware, all people can feel safe, grow beyond adversity and thrive. To accomplish this vision they work to:
- Coordinate – Create a statewide platform to share information on trauma-informed initiatives, best practices and leverage resources to support sustainable progress
- Educate – Grow a trauma-informed environment through training, coaching and technical assistance
- Advocate – Through policy and by promoting best practices
Hope Rising Oklahoma empowers people, families and communities to better their lives through the science of hope. Hope Rising, co-founded by Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt, works with local community leaders by providing the framework, training/certification programs and ongoing support so they can: assess hope levels among their community’s key sectors, determine their most critical issues/focus areas, learn and apply evidence-based methods for raising hope levels in individuals and organizations, equip organizations that are already building hope to measure and maximize their efforts, and maximize the local community’s existing resources, talent and knowledge.
The Louisiana First Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards. The mission is to provide equitable opportunities and improve the lives of children in Louisiana. Through these causes, Teach MAM (Music, Art, and Movement), Louisiana Fosters, and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness, the foundation aims to make a positive impact on the community. To support their efforts, you can donate online. For more information, please reach out to the Louisiana First Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit louisianafirstfoundation.com.
Boosting early childhood literacy and promoting and expanding access to STEM education are Montana First Lady Susan Gianforte’s key initiatives. In 2021, the First Lady founded the Treasure State Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to ensure future First Spouses in Montana can promote the public good with their causes. Through the foundation, Mrs. Gianforte partnered with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to expand the program statewide to ensure every Montana child under the age of 5 can receive a free high-quality, age-appropriate book each month. For more information on how to support Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and register a child, please visit imaginationlibrary.com/other-ways-to-give.
As North Dakota’s First Lady, Kathryn Burgum has prioritized supporting and developing initiatives to eliminate the shame and stigma of the chronic disease of addiction in North Dakota’s communities and beyond North Dakota’s state lines. Her key initiative, Recovery Reinvented, has reached over 20,000 people across the state, country, and internationally.
Recovery Reinvented is for everyone who DREAM of a world where addiction is treated and addressed like the disease it is, who offer HOPE that people can and do recover, and who ACT to end stigma and improve the lives of everyone around them.
Community service is a rewarding and meaningful activity that benefits Americans and their communities. It is a great way to make a difference in the world and improve the lives of others. Get involved!