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A Thank You to the Silent Volunteer

Facts:

2009

President Obama takes office and pledges to expand the national service programs.

At the same time, Michele Obama pledges to make community service one of her top causes as First Lady.

Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Edward Kennedy team up to sponsor the Serve America Act to expand AmeriCorps by 175,000 by 2017. Both senators were on different parties and nearly on opposite sides of the country; Hatch, a conservative Utah Republican and Kennedy, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat.

Sounds great! But what happened to the Serve America Act? Why has AmeriCorps lost over 57,000 members?

Due to budget issues, the Serve America Act was least emphasized and in fact, hardly put into effect.

The House tries repeatedly to clean out AmeriCorps.

2012

Instead of reviving the 57,000 lost members, the Obama administration devises a plan to place 1,600 AmeriCorps members to work with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), titling the program “FEMA Corps.”

What the government did, in order to deal with the budget crisis, was one, disseminate AmeriCorps members into the FEMA Corps: two, save government money and three, have a low cost way to meet crucial needs, still giving young people job skills. The problem is that there are still over 55,000 AmeriCorps volunteers who did not have the opportunity to maintain their place in the organization. This is not to say that AmeriCorps is abolished as a whole, but enrollment has decreased drastically over the past 3 years and budget cuts have significantly reduced funding to the organization.

Now more than ever, volunteers are needed, especially and undoubtedly, in nonprofit organizations. The economy has slowed down the job market and has left time on the hands of many Americans. For 19 years AmeriCorps has given millions of Americans life building and jobs skills, unforgettable experiences, and the opportunity to help others and learn the value of volunteering and giving back to the community. Members of AmeriCorps deserve to be recognized for the contributions they make to our society that so often go unnoticed.

This article from the Washington Times is a great example of the value that AmeriCorps members have on our country. Think young people can’t make an impact? Read this: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/appalachian-chronicles/2012/mar/17/americorps-next-generation-volunteers-make-differe/

Volunteer service is such an important part of a community. AmeriCorps members are members of society that have civic commitment which is hard to come by. Nonprofits greatly rely on volunteers and volunteers can be the reason the organization thrives. These members have greatly been a part of building the strength of nonprofits, provided services to those effected by disaster, aided in clean-up and rebuilding of communities all over the United States, and developed community projects on their own to make the our world a better place.

You may say AmeriCorps members are paid so it’s not volunteering. In addition to an educational stipend, members receive $4,000 for the 10 months they serve. That is $200 every two before taxes, which ends up totaling to about $13.00 per day.  Not much, especially considering the work these members do and the sacrifices they make: being away from family, relocating to new regions, and dedicating their time to benefit others versus themselves. These are members that all too often go unrecognized. Today, starting off National Volunteer Week, it’s time we give these generous men and women the credit and thanks they deserve.

Brittney Nowak
AWP Intern

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