Ruby Bentley says Iowans love to volunteer in their communities, a trait that comes from a Midwestern desire to help others.

Bentley, 64, of rural Macedonia, Iowa, should know. She has organized blood drives for more than 30 years and is president of the Macedonia Historical Preservation Society.

“I do it because I want our community to be a better place, and a place young families want to come and raise their families,” she said. “Volunteering is a good way to give back to your community.”

Civic-minded Iowans like Bentley have led to the state being ranked third best in the country for volunteerism, according to an annual report released last month.

Ruby Bentley

More than 910,000 Iowans served more than 99 million total hours in 2012, according to a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Nebraskans also received high marks for their giving spirit. The state ranked sixth among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to the report.

“Involved citizens do so much to make our communities stronger,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “People here in Iowa take pride in helping their neighbors and dedicating their time to address critical issues.”

Ahead of Iowa in the national rankings for 2012 were Utah, with a 40.9 percent volunteer rate, and Idaho at 38.8 percent.

The percentage of Iowans reporting involvement in volunteer activities increased from 37.9 percent to 38.4 percent; and the number of hours served grew from an average of 34.3 hours per resident to 41.9 hours.

The Cornhusker State recorded 511,150 volunteers — 36.7 percent of Nebraskans — serving 49.3 million total hours in 2012. Nebraskans averaged 35.4 volunteer hours of service each.

The ranking shows that Iowans care about each other and want to help one another, said Katie Bolie of Council Bluffs, who volunteers at the reception desk at the Loess Hills Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“We need to be grateful for what we have and help those who need our assistance.”

Jerry Mathiasen, senior vice president at the Iowa West Foundation in Council Bluffs, worked to find volunteers for state boards and commissions when he was a senior aide for Branstad while he was governor in the 1980s.

“I was amazed at the willingness of Iowans to take time to volunteer for public service,” Mathiasen said in a statement.

The data are part of the most comprehensive study of volunteering and civic engagement.

The corporation's annual report indicates the national volunteer rate reached its highest level since 2006. More than 64 million Americans — or roughly one in four adults — volunteered approximately 8 billion hours, valued at $171 billion.

In addition, two out of three citizens nationally (65.1 percent or almost 144 million citizens) engaged in informal volunteering by doing favors for and helping their neighbors, an increase of 9.5 percentage points from last year.

The Rev. David McGaffey of Missouri Valley, Iowa, serves on several local boards.

“I love people. I love relationships, getting to know people and serving the needs of our community to make it better,” said McGaffey, 40. “I think that just comes out of our Midwest desire to see each other succeed and encourage one another.”

The complete report can be accessed at VolunteeringInAmerica.gov. Iowans can learn about volunteer opportunities at volunteeriowa.org. Nebraskans can learn about opportunities at serve.nebraska.gov.

The World-Herald News Service contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1310, andrew.nelson@owh.com

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