Photo: Kate Wilson for United Way of the Columbia-Willamette

Looking to lower your mortality rate, gain functional ability and be less likely to experience depression later in life? Give volunteering a try.

Folks in our region are on to these benefits. Volunteers contributed a whopping $1.3 billion in service value to the Portland metro region in 2014. Portland also sees the highest rates of millennial volunteering of any major city, and Oregon residents volunteer an average of 45.7 hours a year per resident, ranking 12th in the nation.

We get to witness the power of volunteerism every day through the work done by our Hands On Greater Portland program. Hands On’s more than 11,000 volunteers provide critical labor, skills and resources to our community, enabling nonprofits to build their capacity, focus on their missions and have a bigger impact on the community.

April was National Volunteer Month, and it was more evident than ever that Portland is powered by a strong spirit of generosity. Individuals, businesses and nonprofits came together to make some truly magical stuff happen in our communities.

On April 1, local advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy deployed 500 employees out on 16 projects across town as part of their annual Founders Day celebration. Insurance company The Standard followed suit; more than 400 employees worked on 17 projects during The Standard Week of Caring April 18-22.

To cap off National Volunteer Month, Comcast Cares Day galvanized over 2,000 volunteers in the region on April 30. The signature project revamped Woodmere Elementary School in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood in southeast Portland. Over 250 volunteers deep-cleaned the building, spruced up the grounds, built raised garden beds and installed a jogging path for students.

Hands On Greater Portland Lead Volunteer Larry Kotan was one of the 2,000 people who donated time during Comcast Cares Day.

“I have a passion for helping people, especially kids, in high-needs areas and parts of the city that have been forgotten,” Kotan said. “Out here at Woodmere Elementary, the need is great and the kids deserve it.”

The new jogging path is especially meaningful to Woodmere’s physical education teacher Jim Stultz. Stultz started a 100-mile club at the school after they received a grant from the Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative. A third of students are signed up for the program and they’ve already logged 9,000 of their 10,000 mile goal. The new jogging path all but assures that they’ll surpass it.

“To watch the kids set goals is everything,” said Stultz. “It would have taken me two years to build a track like this and because of these volunteers, it’s going to be completed today.”

Find your perfect volunteer opportunity. (And add years to your life!) Hands On Greater Portland has dozens of projects to choose from. Sign up to volunteer.

Interested in becoming a Hands On Greater Portland Volunteer Leader? Email Tejara Brown.

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