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The time to volunteer is now
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The state of Georgia has done an exceptional job of growing through economic development, and it is widely regarded as the capital of the New South. Now it’s time to show off our compassionate side by getting out and volunteering in our communities.

According to “Volunteering in America: 2008 State and City Trends & Rankings,” Georgia is ranked 43rd in the United States. The report, which ranks cities and states according to their performance from 2005 through 2007, states that just 24.2 percent of Georgians — not even one in four — volunteer their time to help their community. The average national volunteer rate is 27.2 percent per year. We can do better, Georgia.

Today, Gov. Sonny Perdue is calling on all Georgians to become more involved in their local communities by volunteering during Hands On Georgia Week, which will take place this year from Sept. 27-Oct. 4.

I echo Gov. Perdue’s call to service and urge each of you to take just a few hours during this week to make a difference in your community.

There are some shining examples in our state, which we can all look to for inspiration. Augusta is one of our state’s leading communities in this regard. Almost 30 percent of its residents volunteer.

And on Oct. 4, Georgia will seek to achieve the largest single day of volunteerism in the country. In fact, Hands On Atlanta and Hands On Thomas County alone are expecting to have an estimated 16,200 volunteers devote their day to helping others on that date. This is the kind of outstanding performance that we, as Georgians, are capable of producing.

But we need to do more than show up just one day a year. We all need to commit to support our communities throughout the year. The four most popular ways that Georgians volunteer are fundraising, collecting and distributing food for the needy, tutoring and general labor. All of these tasks can be done during the upcoming Hands On Georgia Week and throughout the year.

Hands On Georgia and its affiliates are located throughout the state, and they are ready to put you in touch with local organizations that need your help. Whatever type of service you choose, there are dozens of organizations that will immediately benefit from your support.

In Congress, we’re also working to assist volunteers. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of legislation that will help volunteers deal with rising gas prices by increasing the mileage deduction rate allowed for charity work. Updating the tax code to reflect today’s costs not only makes sense, but will allow volunteers to continue providing essential services such as driving seniors to doctor’s appointments or delivering meals to homebound individuals in their communities.

Volunteering in your community is easy. It’s rewarding. And it’s needed. Volunteer your time today.