Ed. note: The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation is celebrating National Volunteer Week on April 15th – 21st to recognize individuals who serve their communities. This blog post introduces readers to Jerramiah T. Healy, Mayor of Jersey City, NJ. In 2011, over 600 volunteers beautified 80 sites in one day and due to their efforts, Jersey City is an honoree for the Make A Difference Day city awards. When asked about the impact volunteering has had on communities, Mayor Healy writes:
As the second largest city in the state, Jersey City is known as Wall Street West for the hundreds of financial services corporations that are located here. Our city of 250,000 people is one of the most diverse in the nation and we pride ourselves on celebrating both our diversity and our civic pride.
For the past three years, Jersey City has demonstrated this civic pride by participating in Make A Difference Day, the annual volunteer effort sponsored by USA Weekend Magazine and supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for volunteering and service.
For Make a Difference Day 2011, The Jersey City Parks Coalition, conceptualized a citywide planting project named the ‘BIG DIG’. Volunteers would plant hearty tulip and daffodil bulbs in parks and patches of grass throughout the city. Come spring, the fruits of our mutual labor would be reaped.
To cover the cost of supplies, the Parks Coalition volunteers raised nearly $15,000 from the city’s corporate community. The City then identified and prepared the sites. More than 600 volunteers participated in the day, including members of non-profit organizations, school teachers and students, scouts, members of civic organizations and representatives from the corporate community. This winning collaboration illustrates how public-private partnerships and volunteerism are valuable resources for governments.
While tangible results include a more beautiful city, the benefits for those involved go far beyond what’s visible. The city not only established a greater sense of community, but those who participated developed a greater sense of pride in their city while also building skills.
Here in Jersey City, we value our volunteers and are proud of all our non-profit organizations. We continue to foster strong relationships with all sectors as we advance our City and the quality of life for our residents.
Jonathan Greenblatt is the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation.