Nearly 1.6 million Minnesotans volunteered in their schools, churches and communities in 2011, or about 38 percent of all residents.

It was the fourth highest level of volunteerism in the nation, according to the annual "Volunteering and Civic Life in America" report released last month. The report builds on Minnesota's status as a national leader in giving back to communities.

The top five states for volunteering are Utah (41 percent), Idaho (39), Iowa (38.4), Minnesota (38) and South Dakota (37).

About half of the Minnesotans who volunteer do so at churches, synagogues and religious centers, the report found. About one in 10 volunteered in health care settings, schools/universities, and civic and social service groups. Many people volunteered for more than one group.

One reason for the helping hands is that Minnesotans are more trusting of their neighbors than folks in most states. Seventy one percent of Minnesotans said they trusted all or "most of the people'' in their neighborhoods, compared to 57 percent nationally.

They also are relatively upbeat about their children's schools: 34 percent of Minnesotans have "a great deal of confidence" in schools and 58 percent have "some confidence.''

The report found:

• Minnesotans donated 172 million hours, valued at $3.8 billion.

• About 55 percent of urban residents in Minnesota volunteered, compared to just 23 percent of big-city folks nationally.

• Overall, 64.3 million Americans -- or more than one in four adults -- volunteered through a formal organization last year. That's up 1.5 million from 2010.

"Volunteering and civic engagement are the cornerstone of a strong nation," said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which produced the report. "When volunteers and residents come together, it has a positive and powerful impact on a community."

The full report is at www.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511