There are many ways to measure a community: size, wealth, medical services, educational facilities, retail variety, job opportunities, affordability, religious involvement, friendliness, governmental services -- and on and on.
By those measurements, the towns in our area would rank high in almost every category.
But one yardstick would give the people who live here the highest ratings of all: our concern for and our willingness to help our friends and neighbors.
Volunteers abound. Countless hours are spent each year by thousands of willing and eager souls to do something good for someone else. Sometimes these hours are spent with organizations that rely on volunteer help. In other cases, volunteers just do good and useful things for other people because they feel like it.
It is this deep well of helpful hands that the Area Wide United Way hopes to tap for its third year of Days of Caring, a two-day program in which businesses and schools offer employees and students to lend their expertise and muscle to volunteer projects.
These projects already are being lined up in Scott City, Jackson and Cape Girardeau, the towns served by the Area Wide United Way. Duties range from painting walls to delivering meals.
For employees who volunteer for Days of Caring, it's an opportunity to get an up-close look at the many agencies that provide community assistance throughout the year. Students who volunteer get an opportunity to use something they've learned in the classroom in a real-life situation. All of the volunteers develop a sense of civic responsibility and community pride.
This year's Days of Caring are scheduled for Sept. 27-28. Last year, during the program's second year, about 250 volunteers participated. The United Way hopes for even more volunteers this year.
All ages of volunteers are needed. If you're interested, call Kathy Denton at the United Way office, 334-9634, or Gretchen Weber at Southeast Missouri State University, 651-2280.
Warning: Participating in a volunteer effort for two days can be contagious. Those who volunteer often find themselves looking for other opportunities to be of service.
Thank goodness there's a cure. Just look around at all the clubs and organizations that county on volunteers for dozens of worthwhile projects. Any of those groups would be glad to have your ongoing participation.
Days of Caring: It's a good way to do something good.