ST. PAUL (AP) -- Minnesotans are volunteering more than ever and giving substantially more of their time than the national average, a report shows.
''It's part of the nature of our Midwestern work ethic, helping others,'' said Bonnie Esposito, director of the Minnesota Office of Citizenship and Volunteer Services. In addition, she said, Minnesota ''has been committed to really building a good infrastructure to support volunteers.''
In a survey last fall, nearly two-thirds of Minnesota adults reported doing some form of volunteer work in the previous six months.
Calculated at a rate of $14.30 an hour, the average wage for nonfarm work, those volunteer efforts were worth $6.5 billion, the State of Volunteerism 2000 report showed.
But the report released Thursday also discusses some concerns: Older retirees donate more hours than the baby boomers who are following them, and some nonprofit groups find it hard to replace those who leave volunteer service because of aging or ill health.
Minnesota's growing minority population represents a largely untapped resource.
Volunteering was up nationally from 48 percent in 1994 to 56 percent in 1999. In Minnesota, the percentage rose from 64 percent in 1994 to 66 percent in 1999.
In Minnesota, three out of four people in each of these groups volunteers: women, college graduates, two-parent families and people ages 35 to 44. But less than half of those ages 18 to 24 volunteered.
Glenn Reichert has put in more than 2,000 volunteer hours to plan and oversee construction of a senior citizens center in Glenwood.
''You can't go through life with a catcher's mitt on each hand,'' he said at a community meeting held by the state volunteer office. ''You have to throw something back.''
The leading volunteer activity in Minnesota: helping out informally or in the neighborhood.
Minnesotans also have been quick to respond to on-the-spot needs, such as the tornadoes that ripped through southern Minnesota in 1998 and the floods that devastated western and northwestern Minnesota the year before.
They also like to help out in their religious communities, schools and social service groups.
Much of the report is based on a telephone survey of 802 Minnesotans conducted last September to November by the University of Minnesota Center for Survey Research.
Survey results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. National data came from Gallup Organization surveys for Independent Sector.
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