In Phoenix, as graffiti has become a challenge in parts of our community, we have leveraged the power of volunteers to help the city remain a beautiful place to live and work.

Through our Graffiti Busters initiative, volunteers from across the city take charge and participate in regular cleanups of graffiti in their neighborhoods.

From 2011 to 2012, more than 7,000 graffiti sites and nearly 7,300 illegal signs have been removed by 117 volunteers. Together these volunteers have contributed more than 3,200 hours to help keep Phoenix blight free. Additionally, the city of Phoenix has donated nearly 6,100 gallons of paint to support the volunteer-led, graffiti-removal efforts.

Through a coalition called Cities of Service, Phoenix and more than 100 cities have come to realize the power of impact volunteering to move the needle against some of our nation’s most important issues. Under the leadership of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, several cities came together in 2009 to found Cities of Service as a bipartisan coalition of mayors committed to address critical city needs through impact volunteerism.

When Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake decided the city needed to up its game to tackle urban blight, city leaders crafted a plan to involve volunteers to repurpose vacant lots.

When Nashville Mayor Karl Dean surveyed the damage of historic floods in summer 2011, he didn’t look solely to the traditional tools of government for solutions. He looked to citizens, and mobilized an army of Nashville volunteers to remove more than 60 tons of debris from miles of waterways and plant more than 3,000 trees in strategic locations to prevent future flooding.

Cities of Service introduced the concept and practice of “impact volunteering” — volunteer strategies that target community needs, use best practices, and set clear outcomes and measures to gauge progress.

In our city, through Volunteer Phoenix, we connect residents with service opportunities that match their abilities and passion. From cleaning city parks to helping our libraries, volunteers are a lifeline to our city.

I have seen firsthand the success of impact volunteering and how our investment in the Cities of Service model has improved Phoenix for the better, bringing together residents who have the best interest of our city at heart.

I challenge my fellow mayors across the country to make this same investment and I challenge residents to invest in their cities by strengthening their communities and creating a tidal wave of change through the collective power of volunteer service.

To get involved, please go to

Greg Stanton was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2011.

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