Friday, April 24, 2009

President Signs National-Service Bill and Issues Call to Volunteer

Per the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

President Signs National-Service Bill and Issues Call to Volunteer

President Obama today signed a landmark bill to greatly expand government national-service and volunteer programs and asked Americans to “stand up and play your part.”

“A week from tomorrow marks the 100th day of my administration,” he said at the signing ceremony. “In those next eight days, I ask every American to make an enduring commitment to serving your community and your country in whatever way you can.”

The president signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act at the SEED School of Washington D.C., an inner-city charter boarding school, surrounded by Congressional leaders, nonprofit officials, students from the school, and dignitaries including Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a leading champion of the legislation that is named after him, introduced President Obama, saying that “another young president has challenged another generation to give back to their country.” (Senator Kennedy’s brother, President John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps and famously urged people to “ask what you can do for your country.”)

President Obama paid tribute to Senator Kennedy, now ill with a brain tumor, saying, “There are very few people who have touched the life of this nation with the same breadth and in the same order of magnitude.” He praised the liberal Massachusetts Democrat and Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Utah Republican, for teaming up to push the bill despite partisan differences in other areas, joking that “they may be the odd couple of the Senate.”

250,000 Participants

The Serve America Act is designed to more than triple the number of participants in AmeriCorps, the signature national-service program, to 250,000 by 2017, increase the education grant for AmeriCorps participants, create new volunteer programs for young people and older people, and start funds to help nonprofit groups expand innovative programs and recruit and manage volunteers.

“We’re doing this because I’ve always believed that the answers to our challenges cannot come from government alone,” the president said, noting that applications for programs like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and Teach for America have risen sharply.

“Our government can help to rebuild our economy and lift up our schools and reform health-care systems and make sure our soldiers and veterans have everything they need. But we need Americans willing to mentor our eager young children, or care for the sick, or ease the strains of deployment on our military families.”

After the ceremony, President Obama, the first lady, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Biden, and his wife, Jill, headed to help plant trees at a local park.

In a phone call with reporters before the legislation was signed, Alan Solomont, chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service, told reporters that his agency hoped to swear in 200 new AmeriCorps recruits “in the next week or so” with money already allocated under the economic-stimulus package.

The package allocated $201-million to the corporation, which Mr. Solomont said will allow it to add 13,000 AmeriCorps members.

He said the corporation will have no problem finding new prospects. “In March we received more than 17,000 online AmeriCorps applications, which is triple the number over March of last year,” he said. But with the expected influx, he added, “We’re aggressively in the process of trying to strengthen our management systems.”

See full article here: