Local non-profit organizations recruited volunteers and worked around the community this week in celebration of National Volunteer Week.

The weeklong event coincided with the Serve America Act, which President Barack Obama signed on Monday to provide more funds for volunteer work in fields such as education, health care and clean energy. The United Way of Santa Barbara County – an organization that fundraises for the community and supports non-profit organizations – promoted the week by facilitating local volunteer opportunities.

Angela Wallace, the community impact coordinator for the organization’s Web site, said volunteer week provides an opportunity for people to become involved in the Santa Barbara community.

“I see this week, especially with the signing of the Serve America Act, as a reminder for people to give back to the community,” Wallace said.

According to Wallace, two of United Way’s primary goals are to help make children successful and to build strong families. The organization also helps to make senior citizens more independent by encouraging them to be active and offering at home assistance. However, none of these efforts can be achieved without the help of volunteers.

Jennifer Muench, the co-chair for the Young Leaders Society and community relations manager for Cox Communications, said the volunteers are vital to nonprofit organizations, especially in light of the economic situation.

“Volunteering is important, especially right now,” Muench said. “The non-profit organizations have been feeling the strain of the economy, so it’s important for volunteers to come and help them with their projects. The extra man-power is really needed by them.”

Muench was one of the Young Leaders Society volunteers who teamed up with the Diabetes Resource Center to help implement an organic gardening program at Franklin Elementary, which has the highest obesity rate of elementary schools in the county. Volunteers from the two organizations planted flowers and vegetables in an effort to expose students to food they would not normally eat and educate them about nutrition and healthy eating habits.

“I like that the main focus of Young Leader Society is volunteering and giving back to the community,” Muench said. “It was a really great experience and for a great cause.”

The United Way relies on partnerships with various non-profit groups to survey what the community needs and establish a set of prioritized goals for the next five to 10 years. Wallace said that people are encouraged to donate money for any cause they have an interest in, and all donated money goes toward enhancing the local community.