It has been said that it is better to give than receive. As we enter the summer months on this beautiful island of Alameda, we should take a moment to celebrate the hundreds of individuals in our community who volunteer and recognize the benefits of their service to our community and to our recreation and parks.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the value of each volunteer hour in California is currently $24.75. Rather amazing, isn't it? If you consider that Alameda's recreation and parks receive approximately 23,000 volunteer hours a year from citizens in and around Alameda, you are looking at an indirect financial benefit of almost $570,000. In other words, we save this much money by having an outstanding foundation of volunteerism.

Alameda has always had a strong spirit and history of community service. Since our earliest days, individual citizens and generations of families have given generously of themselves to improve the health and wellness of others in our community. You need look no further than the Arnerich family, the Mariani family, the Thomas family, the Russi family and so many others. They grew up in our parks and cherish the fact that their children and grandchildren now play and enjoy themselves on the same grass, the same cement, the same blacktop as they did. They also appreciate that their children participate in some of the same summer programs that they did. Long before there were athletic clubs, there were parks. These are just a few of the many traditions we treasure in Alameda, and our recreation and parks is deep in tradition. As Bill Thomas put it, "We loved Alameda parks because they were a safe haven for me when I was growing up and was for my children as well."

Volunteering is about giving, contributing and helping other individuals and the community. Volunteering means working with others to make a meaningful contribution to a better Alameda. They are individuals who dedicate their time, talents and energy to making a difference. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, approximately 63.4 million Americans -- close to 27 percent of the adult population -- contribute a collective 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service in the U.S. Obviously, Alameda is not alone in have a strong foundation of volunteering.

The value of volunteering in Alameda is much deeper, much more fulfilling and much more important in contributing to a healthy and vibrant community than money can ever measure.

People volunteer for an endless variety of reasons. Many people want to gain new experiences, acquire new skills, meet new people or expand their network of contacts as a way to get a new job or start a career. Others just want to give back to their community, help a friend or support a worthwhile activity. They do it because it makes them feel good.

Helping our Recreation and Park Department with activities and programs throughout the year can be rewarding and enriching experience. For those that you come in contact with, you will make their lives better. Volunteers are needed to support before school and after school programs, to organize activities for children, teens and adults, and much more. Volunteering is not just about supporting large events. It is hundreds of coaching volunteers in various sports, giving aid to seniors, helping to clean fields and beaches, and participating in foundations and specific interest groups.

The Friends of the Parks Foundation is looking for volunteers and donations and to help with a number of park and exercise activities. See the foundation's website below to better understand who we are and what we do. The Recreation and Park Department is in need of volunteers as well, including support for the development of the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park.

For more information on Recreation and Park programs and how you can become a volunteer, visit www.cityofalamedaca.gov or call 510-747-7529. You can also visit the Friends of the Parks website today, and consider joining and donating to their foundation. They sponsor and support many programs and need your donations to continue that effort. www.alamedaparks.org

Bill Delaney is a board member of The Friends of the Parks Foundation and a member of the Alameda Recreation and Park Commission. If you have any questions or comments, please send Bill a message via email, at bdelaneyca@yahoo.com