CAPITOL UPDATE FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 20, 2006
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez , Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385
Sen. Lucio Encourages Continued Volunteerism in Area
The holiday season brings the culmination of another year for all of us that included successes and failures, joys and sorrows.
Many individuals or families every year look with hope to their communities, churches, families and friends for comfort and assistance.
Volunteerism helps transform this hope into reality. Acts of charity and assisting others are highest during the holidays, but for many volunteers, they continue year-round. Fortunately studies show that Texans have big hearts when it comes to selfless service.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNS) in Washington, D.C. reported that Texas had the second largest number of volunteers in the nation every year since 2002-second only to California. In 2005, nearly 4.8 million people volunteered in the state. The report also indicated that Texas is one of only eight states in which the number of volunteers increased yearly and the also only one of five states in which the volunteer rate increased yearly since 2002.
For Texas, selfless service is particularly beneficial on a human and an economic scale. More people with needs are reached through volunteers than they would be without them. Our schools, communities and the entire state save thousands of dollars from volunteer programs.
South Texas volunteer groups are essential because of our area's high poverty and limited funds for government services. These charitable organizations are always looking for more volunteers and funds, like the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley that provides food to soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters. There are 205 partner agencies in the Food Bank-Rio Grande Valley area alone. For every $1 raised, the Food Bank can provide seven meals, which means $27 can provide 189 meals.
Some of our greatest supporters of charitable activities are people who may not even have blood ties to the area, but their heart strings are pulled our way. Those temporary residents with full-time generosity are our Winter Texans. For the winter months, they are our neighbors and friends. They help at food banks, hospitals and recently I read in the Valley Morning Star of their contributions as Good Sam Members. The opinion editorial described them as "truly good Samaritans of the road," and I describe them as people who care about improving the lives of those around them wherever they may be.
Many retirees, whether permanent residents or Winter Texans, participate in the Foster Grandparent Program that enlists volunteers who are 60-years plus to help in local pre-schools, elementary schools and other non-profits. The need for children's services is enormous. Texas CASA, an advocacy group for abused and neglected children in the court system, is active locally and needing support in counties as small as Kleberg and as large as Hidalgo.
Another group of wonderful contributors to ease human suffering are our churches. The CNS report also noted that the greatest percentage of volunteers in Texas in 2005 served primarily through religious organizations (38.9 percent).
My own golf scholarship fund that provides scholarships every year to one male and one female high school student from my five-county Senatorial district is driven by many volunteers and contributors. The celebrities we feature at the golf tournaments are generally not homegrown, but they gladly donate their names and golf abilities to this worthy cause.
Texas can boast that the high rates of volunteerism are attributable to its legacy. In 1976, Gov. Dolph Briscoe established the Texas Center for Volunteer Action (not clear whether a similar office existed prior to his tenure). The program underwent several transitions through the years, and in 2003 the 78th Texas Legislature authorized the OneStar Foundation, a nonprofit corporation housed in the Governor's office that furthers volunteerism and community service in the state. Earlier this year, we celebrated 30 years of our state government's support of volunteerism and community service.
Contributing time and money can brighten a person's holidays or fulfill a child's Christmas wish. However, illness, abuse, disaster, academic risk and many other social ills cry out for more help.
To every person who has volunteered to help others, I thank you. Your service has made this state a greater place and lightened someone's heavy burden. I encourage the people of South Texas to consider volunteering as a New Year's resolution. As we conclude 2006, I commend and thank every volunteer in South Texas. And during this blessed holiday season, my family and I wish the people of Cameron, Hidalgo, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.