Exploring Hispanic American Involvement in Community Leadership through Volunteerism

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the Hispanic American involvement in community leadership roles through volunteerism. Twenty Hispanic Americans were interviewed using a 15 item interview schedule. Responses were tape-recorded, translated into English, transcribed, and analyzed using the constant comparative method. Six resulting themes were identified, and corresponding implications discussed: (a) The influence of family and friends on volunteering; (b) the importance of volunteer leadership to benefit youth; (c) the importance of church and religious beliefs in volunteering; (d) volunteering as a requirement (e) the connections between volunteer leadership and the community; and (f) personal satisfaction and growth experienced through volunteerism.

The United States is the only country in the world where giving and volunteering are pervasive characteristics of a total society (O'Connell & O'Connell, 1989). Both historically and today, the term volunteer connotes positive social action (Ellis & Noyes, 1990) wherein individual citizen leaders mobilize, motivate and enlist others in working towards a shared, desired outcome (Kouzes & Posner, 1995). As such, volunteerism has become a vital and fundamental leadership component of our communities, especially for addressing the increasing challenges they face in providing adequate public programs and services. The need and demand for human services continue to grow, specifically in cities and large urban communities where large numbers of individuals live and work in a concentrated area. According to Peterson et al. (1992), many of the critical issues facing contemporary urban communities directly affect non-white, limited resource, and both younger and older adult populations. Regarding this issue, Peterson et al. added that volunteer agencies and organizations are encouraged to make concerted, focused efforts to identify and locate individuals within these population segments for targeted recruitment as program leaders through volunteerism.

Hispanics are an urban population, more so than most other Americans (Longres, 1995). Although they live in every state, California, Texas, and New York have the largest concentrations followed by Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. The U. S. Bureau of the Census (1990) recorded more than 22 million people under the designation of Hispanic. Ellis and Noyes (1990) suggested that by the year 2000, the majority of Americans will no longer have an European background; Nichols (1990) declared that by the end of the century, one out of every three Americans will belong to a minority group.

According to Chase (1990), very little research has been conducted on minority volunteering. Chambre (1982) summarized general perspectives and specific techniques of a number of organizations in recruiting Hispanic volunteers. Gonzales (1985) identified nearly 200 national and local Hispanic American voluntary organizations in the United States. Hutchenson and Dominguez (1986) declared that voluntary and ethnic organizations, and ethnic churches, are major participants in the voluntary sector. According to Brody (1997), there are over 1000 non-profit organizations in the greater Cleveland area, yet only ten to 12 serve primarily Hispanic Americans. The most recent studies conducted by the Independent Sector (2000) indicated that 46 percent of Hispanic Americans volunteered in 1998, an increase of 6 percentage points since 1995 (40%). Hobbs (2000) provided specific recommendations for recruiting and supporting Latino volunteers, concluding that "How successful you are in recruiting and retaining Latino adults as volunteers depends on your awareness of and sensitivity to the cultural differences between the majority society and Latinos" (p. 11).

Dunn (1995, p. 2483) noted that volunteers were a diverse group, both racially and ethnically. …

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