We need to pause periodically and give thanks in America for the men and women, adults and young people, who perform voluntary service to their country, state and community.

These are the people who give so generously of their time and resources, in an unpaid capacity, without any expectation of reward or compensation, simply to help others. More often than not, the people they help are strangers who benefit from the fact that there are people with an agape love who serve because they see a need that they consider worthwhile and take the step to become involved.

Along these same lines there is a misconception about contributions to our economy, those who contribute to our GNP, the sum total of all the goods and services produced in our country in a given year.

Ironically our first thought is often about the megacorporations that gets the splash of publicity with their logos and national advertisements of their million-dollar gifts to this or that foundation.

The fact is that the 28 million small businesses in America, that employ over 50 percent of our workforce, contribute far more to our economy than is generally understood or appreciated.

But there is a larger force at work -- volunteers.

Recently I attended a breakfast at a local hotel, hosted by The Volunteers of America. I am aware of this group because volunteering is a large part of my life. Please pardon my immodesty, I have been awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for each of the past six years. I mention this because I do not want to preach about volunteering without letting you know I am a participant. More importantly, I am deeply proud of all those who have served with me.

What is not well known is that, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, one in four adults in America performs volunteer work through an organization. That equates to approximately 64.5 million Americans volunteering 7.9 billion hours just last year alone.

Our hundreds of volunteers are the faceless people you bump into everyday, in the hospitals, senior centers, food bank distribution points, in the parks, with your police department, military veterans service centers, and a myriad of other nonprofit and governmental agencies.

These wonderful volunteers stabilize, strengthen, invigorate, and enhance this community and all communities across this great country, and yes, even the world. They work without pay, provide comfort to the distressed, bring a smile, and even laughter, to our lives. They touch our heartstrings, especially in our own community in Concord.

Our local Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS), is comprised of more than 100 volunteers that last year alone contributed 18,453 hours, which amounted to a dollar savings of $433,473. Without that significant contribution of time there would have been a huge service void for the residents of Concord.

They were responsible for so many daily tasks that we take for granted, e.g., business license project, cadet program, shopping cart program, Concord Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Chaplaincy, vacation house checks, school safety presentations, and special event staffing. The Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) is made up of volunteers e ready to take action at a moment's notice in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Moreover, the long arm of volunteerism reaches far beyond the confines of the Concord Police Department. Consider the recent Fourth of July Parade that took place in downtown Concord. Hundreds of volunteers were involved in the program.

Please again excuse me for pointing out how proud I am of my wife Tammy, who was the general chairwoman of the parade event, a very demanding job she has filled for a number of years.

Activities at the Senior Center would never be implemented were it not for volunteers. Streets would not be as clean if not for the Adopt-a-Street Program and its many volunteers. Over the past three years, volunteers in the office of the City Clerk have scanned more than 35,000 images for better and more convenient access by the public.

City employees have joined our residents in volunteering to raise funds for MDA and to participate in the Relay for Life (12 city employees comprise one team). In addition, Concord services are highly benefitted by volunteers who serve long and faithfully on our many boards and commissions. As the mayor of Concord, I am humbled and deeply grateful for their dedicated service.

There are many avenues of service. If you are reading this and have not had the opportunity to share your unique talents and get involved, one phone call can change your life.

Volunteerism provides the thread of individual action that strengthens the fiber of a neighborhood, community, or city. Your willingness to serve as a volunteer will make Concord a better place in which to live and raise a family.

Tim Grayson is the mayor of Concord. Contact him at citycouncil@ci.concord.ca.us.