I recently attended a leadership class on diversity and inclusion. It made me change the way I think about diversity in our community. Diversity and inclusion are more than just numbers. It is about making sure everyone feels engaged and part of our community. Inclusion is at the heart of what it means to Live United and advance the common good. Part of inclusion is making sure we provide opportunities for all citizens to feel engaged and fulfilled.

This week – April 15 – 21 – is National Volunteer Week, a time to draw our attention to the valuable work done by volunteers throughout all of Northwest Arkansas. What would our community be like without the selfless actions of its volunteers? Donating their time and their talents without expectations of monetary reward, volunteers are on the front lines of all our community services.

To celebrate this occasion and the countless number of volunteers across Northwest Arkansas who lend their time and energy, let’s start with a few facts about volunteering.

· According to the Northwest Arkansas Quality of Life survey, over 60% of citizens in Northwest Arkansas volunteer for a local organization. On average, these individuals spent 12 hours per month volunteering.

· An average of 80% of those survey responded that they donated money to a nonprofit organization.

· In 2011 at United Way, volunteers gave 7,148 hours of volunteer service for an economic impact of $155,755.

The next time you see a volunteer in our community, take a minute and say “Thank You.” Better yet, look for those opportunities in your life to actively engage and include those around you to help us all strive to “Live United”. And if you are one of the thousands of volunteers in Northwest Arkansas, please know your efforts are appreciated.