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Yes, you can make a difference

Those who volunteer learn that it provides multiple payoffs.

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The proud smile of a first-grader who suddenly "gets" a math problem; the beaming face of a shut-in as she receives a long-awaited volunteer visitor; the opportunity for a disabled veteran to attend a Redskins game, escaping the hard realities of his hospital stay; and the relief etched on the faces of children as they enjoy a shower and warm meal in a Red Cross facility following a disaster. These are a few examples of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who felt the touch and support of a volunteer this year.

As Thanksgiving approaches and families and friends gather for a relaxing celebration, some may feel that the past year – marked by depreciating portfolios, falling house prices, and perhaps even a job loss – has left little reason for joy.

But rather than focusing on negatives, Americans should consider ways to tap their passions, interests, and talents to help others.

The opportunities are widespread. Many are concentrated in education, healthcare, senior citizen support, and community services such as food banks, nature conservancy, and clean energy. With the excitement of an Obama administration powered by change and fueled by the cry, "Yes we can," a new volunteerism movement may sweep this country.

"Young people entering college this year expressed an off-the-charts interest in serving their community," says Bob Grimm, director of research and policy development for the Corporation for National and Community Service (nationalservice.gov), an independent federal agency that supports community service groups.

People of all generations can add value to their lives and others by volunteering. Boomers, with their skills and experience, are potentially powerful volunteers.

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