Volunteers rule, and do lots of unpaid work.

Every week during the school year Aimee Willoz and Steve Ferris show up at a Hennepin county library and help kids with homework.

Mostly math.

Aimee works at a Hopkins library and Steve at a north Minneapolis branch.

Steve remembers one kid showing up with forty math worksheets due the next day.

The teacher handed the homework to students during the term, and the young man had completed none of them.

Steve says two hours later the work was done, ready to be handed in, and in theory, one student’s academic career was, at least in math, back on track.

Aimee remembers a mom of one of the students she helped telling her how thankful she and her son were for the help.

Both Aimee and Steve report the volunteer tutoring experience repays them more richly than the couple hours a week they invest.

Hennepin county has a continuing need for volunteers and some of the work looks pretty interesting.

The world would keep spinning without volunteers.

Maybe.

But the fallout would not be pretty. Along with millions of math work sheets going uncompleted, there’d be lots of phones unanswered, countless teens not mentored, families not befriended, ex-cons left to their own wits upon release, scads of litter not picked up.

Volunteerism – some call it community service – is not without controversy. Here’s a nifty NYTimes piece about planting the seed for volunteerism.

Then there’s the point, ‘Hey, if a job is worth doing, it’s worth being paid for.’

Well, yes.

We all know of instances where (sometimes fairly well-off) organizations rely on volunteers to fill gaps when they could probably afford to pay them.

Back down at the grass roots and real people level both Aimee Willoz and Steve Ferris say they see a need for their tutoring, and on the payback front they’re getting lots of personal satisfaction from helping.

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