And why not you as that volunteer?

Sounds simple?  It is.

Suddenly—and this is a good thing—“volunteerism” is hot.  The Service Nation ( initiative brings together more than 200 non-profit organizations (including the Association of Junior Leagues International) to increase service opportunities and elevate service as a core ideal and problem-solving strategy in American society.  There are a number of Obama Administration volunteer initiatives, including the Serve America Act and United We Serve ( Even Hollywood is getting into the act with the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s launch of its iParticipate ( campaign this month to encourage a new era of service through the entertainment industry.

The good news is that Americans like to volunteer.   According to a recent survey from Volunteering in America:  In 2008, 61.8 million Americans, or 26.4 percent of the adult population, contributed 8 billion hours of volunteer service, and the number of volunteers actually increased by about 1 million between 2007 and 2008.

I don’t need to tell you that this increase in service couldn’t come at a better time.  The economy has left government at every level stretched for resources.  Charitable giving in 2008 declined for the first time in 20 years.  And many more individuals are out of work, or working less, or worried about losing their jobs.

We’re talking about civic leadership, where women can play a particularly important role.  As one Junior League leader said, “When you look at leadership and you look at women’s natural tendencies of being able to engage in dialogue, facilitate different conversations, and the natural ability to collaborate or partner with others…that is a civic leader.

So what can you do?  Become a catalyst for change in your community.  Become the new volunteer that revitalizes an existing group.  Become the member who advances an idea with passion and grace.  Become the founder of a group that addresses a problem, large or small, that confronts all of us.  Educate neighbors and friends about an important community issue.  Convene a forum of local community stakeholders.  Serve on the Board of a local nonprofit organization.  Serve as director of a local community foundation.  Run for public office.

Consider becoming a volunteer nation of one.

You might surprise yourself.