When I met Erin, who's 24, and watched her use her free time after work to help women who are incarcerated read to their children, I thought she'd made an extraordinary choice.
Then, I ran across some new stats about volunteering that confirmed my assumption, especially for her age group. Of people born 1982 or after, 21.4 percent volunteer nationally. But here in Indiana, just 19.4 percent of Millennials volunteer.
Erin has no shortage of options to fill her time. In addition to her full- time job, she will soon start an online class. An avid reader, she's begun reading Gone with the Wind, and she likes to play Frisbee golf with her boyfriend and walk her dog.
But she's matter-of-fact about her weekly volunteer commitment to help mothers and grandmothers tape record stories and write and decorate personal messages to mail to children they are separated from.
She saw the opportunity online. It was close. She wanted a consistent volunteer commitment, and she said yes.
"It doesn't take much time. It adds an hour to my day, and then I'm done for the week. And it makes such a big difference to them,' she explains.
There is nothing matter-of-fact about the response of the women Erin helps. "They (volunteers) take time to show us how to do things right...knowing they care is wonderful...Your voice is so strong...It is such an important connection to your child..."
You can see Erin and the women she's working with on Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. during a station break on WRTV 6. It's part of the local television stations' commitment to inspire more volunteers to step up through United Way to be part of the change they want to see in education.
--Mary Kinney, public/media relations director, United Way of Central Indiana