Five hundred and eleven.

That’s how many hours that members of Sandwich’s Citizens Police Academy Association have collectively volunteered in town this year.

What’s the value of all those hours?

According to Independent Sector, a nationwide coalition of nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs, one hour of volunteerism is worth $32.15 in the Bay State.

That means the citizens academy has provided more than $16,000 worth of assistance to the town—from serving as crossing guards on Halloween, lugging furniture and helping to pack and unpack boxes at the old and new police stations, and welcoming people and serving donuts and hot chocolate at community events.

And that was as of last week. After the busy holiday season is over—with all the events on tap, including Sandwich First Night—that number will surely increase before the clock tolls midnight on December 31.

The citizens academy is just one group of volunteers—albeit a big and active one. But there are many other: individuals, businesses, clubs and service organizations too numerous to mention by name that offer a helping hand where needed.

They stock the shelves at the food pantry, pick up litter at the beaches and along the roadsides, and flip burgers on the grill at town sporting events.

Some serve on town committees and run for election on town boards. They serve as Scout leaders, Little League coaches, and help make the Thanksgiving Day run such a success each year.

Exactly how many volunteer hours this totals is anyone’s guess. But it’s a lot, to say the least.

According to one estimate from the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63.4 million Americans contribute a collective 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth $169 billion a year.

But the value of volunteering goes much deeper than dollars.

It is a fulfilling and important act that contributes more to a healthy and vibrant community than money can ever measure.

Volunteering is about giving, contributing and helping other individuals and the community. Volunteering means working with others to make a meaningful contribution to a better community.

People volunteer for an endless variety of reasons. Many people want to gain experience, acquire new skills, meet new people or expand their network of contacts as a way to get a new job or start a career. Others just want to give back to their community, help a friend or promote a worthwhile activity. They do it because it makes them feel good.

This is the intrinsic value of volunteering.

At this festive time of year—actually at any time of year—we should give thanks to the volunteers among us. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Instead of asking “What’s in it for me?” they’re asking, “How can we help?”

That’s a question we should all consider in the coming year.

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