Thurston County's Hidden Sector

This is a triply special week

Just in time for National Volunteer Week, this two-minute video is a thank you to those who contribute their time to Our Ark, a Lacey-based nonprofit.

What a week! I could be writing about Easter, Passover, and Ramadan (hope you had a blessed holiday).

Or about Earth Day and all the local environmental nonprofits (there are lots of events this week).

Or arts events that are happening through the end of the month. However, this week, I am writing (again!) about one of my favorite subjects because it is National Volunteer Week!


The third week of April each year is an opportunity to thank the thousands of volunteers across the country who keep nonprofit organizations running, our communities safe and provide services that otherwise would not exist without them. Contrary to popular belief, this is not necessarily the week to start volunteering as most organizations are focused on recognizing their current volunteers. Many local organizations rely on volunteers to:

  • keep food co-ops, food banks, and soup kitchens open,
  • provide shelter, medical care, and clothing to those in need, and
  • offer comforting words during trying times or
  • offer sage advice as a mentor.

Our local Thurston County volunteers give of their time and service to fill gaps, bellies, and most profoundly hearts.

What You Can Do

While nonprofit organizations will be recognizing their volunteers this week, it is even more special when a thank you comes from someone who is directly benefitting from the volunteer’s efforts. Here are a few ways you can recognize the volunteers you know this week!

  • Thank the volunteer not only for their time but tell them specifically what a difference they are making
  • Step up and volunteer in your community.
  • Share your experiences as a volunteer. You might inspire someone to be like you!
  • Visit Points of Light to find out more about National Volunteer Week and how you can make a difference.
  • Use #NationalVolunteerWeek to share on social media.

Just a little history

It was established by Presidential Proclamation in 1974 to highlight the countless opportunities available for those interested in volunteering. President Joe Biden continued this tradition by offering his own proclamation -- you can read it here.

The value of a volunteer hour

Each year, Independent Sector and the Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland release “Value of Volunteer Time” data, which provides an estimate in dollars of volunteerism in the nation and each state. Currently, the value of a volunteer hour is estimated to be $29.95 – a 4.9% increase from 2020 to 2021. Nonprofit organizations use this data for recognition events, communications, or reports to show the amount of community support an organization receives from its volunteers. (In case you were wondering, no, you may not take this off on your taxes!)

According to data from AmeriCorps on volunteer hours, volunteers typically contribute $200 billion to our communities; however, this amount has recently changed because of COVID-19. While it will take some years to assess the full impact of COVID-19, a study by Fidelity Charitable found that 66% of volunteers decreased the amount of time they volunteer or stopped entirely due to the pandemic. I realize that it is difficult to place a dollar figure on a volunteer’s contributions; this data helps us comprehend a fraction of the invaluable support volunteers provide. Click here for more on the Value of Volunteer Time, the methodology, and to explore historical national and state-level data.

Washington volunteers – a lot!

According to the most recent statistics available for the state of Washington:

  • 31% of residents volunteered
  • Washington ranked 16th among the 50 states and Washington, DC
  • 1.6 million Washingtonians volunteered
  • Volunteers contributed almost 2 million hours of service
  • $5 billion of service contributed to nonprofits in our state

Let’s Celebrate the Volunteers at Our Ark!

See the video at the top of this story? It’s a shout-out to the volunteers at Our Ark, the Lacey-based organization that works with youth ages 18-25 to “break the cycle” of youth homelessness.  (Nothing fancy – it was made and narrated by Danny Burkett, the organization’s founder and executive director, to thank the group’s volunteers. How do we know? We recognize his voice; he didn't put his name in it himself.)

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits! 

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


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