This coming Sunday marks the beginning of National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration of community service that is part of Global Volunteer Month. At California Local, we don’t need to look at the calendar to think about volunteers. They’re the fuel that powers the organizations we list in our Community Resources directory, as well as being an essential component at every level of local government.

But this annual observance, which runs April 16-22, does provide an opportunity to mull over how important volunteerism is to the American psyche., a site that helps groups recruit and manage volunteers, begins its history of volunteerism in America in 1736, when Benjamin Franklin founded the first volunteer firehouse. “This first brigade was formed by 26 volunteers, and as more and more continued to sign up, additional brigades were formed. This tradition has continued throughout the centuries, with around 70% of American firefighters today being volunteers,” notes a blog post by Alice Turnbull.