April is National Volunteer Month. Based in Portland, Don Pearson is Wells Fargo's regional president for Oregon and Southwest Washington.

As Wells Fargo's regional president for Oregon and Southwest Washington, whenever people see news like Wells Fargo contributing $315.8 million to communities nationwide in 2012, they ask "What does that mean for this region and for me personally?"

My answer: A lot!

Last year, Wells Fargo team members in Oregon amd Southwest Washington volunteered 75,605 hours, including my 365 hours. That's $1.64 million worth of time (using the value of a volunteer hour, as determined by the nonprofit Independent Sector).

Some of my favorite places to volunteer in Oregon include Habitat for Humanity affiliates, which build affordable homes for low-income families; New Avenues for Youth in downtown Portland, which serves homeless youths; the Oregon Food Bank; and the Salvation Army's White Shield in Portland, a home and school for unwed teenage girls who are either pregnant or have already given birth.

Why do I volunteer so much? Volunteering helps local nonprofits extend their resources. The money Habitat for Humanity receives from Wells Fargo is great, but all that lumber and other supplies won't become homes unless volunteers pick up a hammer and build with them.

New Avenues for Youth is in a similar situation. Sure, our contributions of money buy food, but it only becomes meals for homeless youth when it's cooked by volunteers.

Whether your company is large or small, whether you're an individual or part of a large family, volunteering also builds teamwork and creates an environment for making new and often lasting friendships.

Volunteering certainly fills a place in my life and heart. When we volunteer at White Shield, we cook and serve a meal to teenage mothers who have no parents or family to care for them.

We ask the girls in advance to choose the menu, which has included ribs, hamburgers, pizza and apple pie. If the meal is near a holiday, we also bring related gifts. We've also brought along our pets for companionship, and built and donated picnic tables and ping pong tables.

But here's what affects me the most: Once a year, the girls at White Shield vote on what they like best about staying there. Among their favorites? Wells Fargo.

So that's why I volunteer. If you're not already volunteering, consider starting today. You can find opportunities by contacting your local United Way or going online to and looking in the HandsOn Network section to find the HandsOn volunteer chapter near you.

A small investment of time can make a tremendous difference in someone else's life.

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