Saving Northwest Service Academy

The Pacific Northwest national service community has been rocked this past week with the news that one of our most vibrant AmeriCorps National programs has lost its AmeriCorps funding starting in September of 2010.

Northwest Service Academy‘s AmeriCorps program partners with local agencies, schools, and organizations to tackle environmental projects in the Pacific Northwest.  Its LINKS program works with partnering agencies to directly address education, public safety, the environment and other community needs. It’s sponsored and supported over 4,000 AmeriCorps members.

The funding situation means that as things currently stand, this year’s members will serve out their terms (as late as November) but the 75 placement sites already selected for the coming year will likely not be able to recruit people to fill needed service positions. Continue reading

Advertisements

Senate Recognizes VISTA’s 45th Anniversary

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution honoring the work of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), for its 45 years of work towards alleviating poverty, and other accomplishments.

Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-VA) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced the resolution (S.Res.449), and were joined by several co-sponsors. Rockefeller first lived in West Virginia as a VISTA, when he was 27 years old.

The resolution recognizes the more than 175,000 VISTAs who have served since 1965, and their creation of “many successful and sustainable community initiatives, including Head Start centers, credit unions, and neighborhood watch groups.” The resolution honors VISTAs’s work on diverse poverty-related issues such as health care, technology, crime/recidivism, housing, and literacy. The resolution also highlights these numbers:

  • 7,000 VISTAs serve each year
  • Annually, VISTAs bring in $100 million in cash and in-kind donations to their organizations
  • Also each year, VISTAs recruit 1 million volunteers who engage in 10 million hours of volunteer service.

Read the entire Senate resolution here. Oddly, the House introduced a similar bill (H.RES.1152) last week, but it wasn’t passed; instead it’s been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

According to a statement today from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which operates VISTA, the resolution marks the official kick off of VISTA’s 45th anniversary celebration — a series of events and celebrations that will take place this year.

Celebrations will include a photography exhibit of VISTA photography from 1968, an effort to collect and share stories of VISTAs, and I’ll be launching a podcast episode featuring three VISTAs who’ve served across the decades during AmeriCorps Week in May.

Are you a VISTA or former VISTA? How will you commemorate the 45th anniversary of the organization?

AmeriCorps Connect Launches – New Site to Help You Access AmeriCorps Stuff

Today, the Corporation for National and Community Service announced the launch of its new web portal, AmeriCorps Connect — a one-stop shop for frequently-used national service content.

Frequent visitors to other national service sites like NationalService.gov and AmeriCorps.org will notice that AmeriCorps Connect’s homepage is less-text heavy.

The home page features three types of links, explained this way in today’s announcement:

LEARN includes links to resources designed to help you with the day-to-day aspects of your job such as grant management, member management, and service-related activities.

CONNECT includes social media and other tools, including a wiki to help you collaborate with your staff, partners, and other stakeholders. Use it to create and edit shared documents or other project communications. Subscribe to an AmeriCorps e-mail list, or check out the upcoming national service events Continue reading

Volunteering Continues to Creep Skyward in the United States

Volunteering up again, slightly, in 2009.

This week the Corporation for National and Community Service announced that a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that 1.5 million more people in the U.S. volunteered in 2009 than in 2008.

The number of people volunteering through organizations rose from 61.8 million to 63.4 million between September 2008 and 2009.

The survey — conducted with the help of the Corporation — asked 60,000 households about their volunteerism habits through a supplement to the September 2009 Current Population Survey (CPS). The Corporation will use this week’s BLS findings to produce the annual Volunteering in America report. (See my write up about the 2009 report from this past July).

Between September 2007 and September 2008, the number of volunteers increased by one million. In the fall of 2008 the U.S. economy started its dramatic nosedive which definitely increased the need for volunteers at social service organizations throughout the country.

Interestingly, though, it doesn’t look as though unemployed people are the ones who swelled the ranks of volunteers. Continue reading

January is National Mentoring Month

It’s January! And though we’re in the midst of a nasty, dreadful winter, it feels a lot like spring…well, if you don’t consider the weather.  January, like March, is a time of rebirth and new beginnings. In the spring, nature beckons and we follow her lead.  In the winter, we don’t have the benefit of nature leading the way so we have to be self-motivated.

Fittingly, January, the first month of the year, is when we make commitments, mostly to ourselves, to be better, improve, to do or not to do.  Ultimately, we “resolve” to be our best selves and our resolutions, when implemented, lead the way. And, if we’re committed, come spring, we’re in full bloom.

January is also National Mentoring Month.  It’s the time of year when Harvard, Mentor and the Corporation for National and Community Service join forces to shine a spotlight on the need for mentors in the lives of America’s youth.

In this new era of service, when Americans are being asked to give of themselves to help make America better, resolving to Continue reading

A Year of Celebrations: the 45th Anniversary of VISTA

Voices of VISTA was a series of radio ads featuring celebrities, and interviews with VISTAs. Listen to the radio spots on the VISTA Campus (free login required).

Happy New Year!

2010 is the 45th anniversary that Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) first fanned out across the country, spending a year organizing communities in poverty, developing local infrastructures, and connecting people with the rights and the social service resources in their regions.

In honor of the 45th anniversary, the Corporation for National and Community Service — the agency that runs VISTA today, as AmeriCorps VISTA — is planning several celebrations throughout 2010, across the country and online.

For example, special events like an exhibit of VISTA photos from the late 60s by then-VISTA Frederico Santi may appear in a few places around the United States, presented during AmeriCorps Week (May 8-15)  and during other times.

Also a focus on poverty issues and a celebration of VISTA’s contributions are in the works for this summer’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service in New York City, among the oldest host cities for VISTAs.

I hope to focus more attention on VISTAs past and present on this blog during the coming year, including writings of VISTAs who have served in the Pacific Northwest and contributed writings to the Northwest National Service Symposium.

To all VISTAs — thanks for your service, and I am excited to help kick off this exciting year! Continue reading

Senate Approves Funding for Peace Corps and AmeriCorps Programs

Today the Senate  gave final congressional approval to a package of six appropriations bills to fund many government programs for Fiscal Year 2010, including 1.149 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service, and  $400 million for the Peace Corps.

President Obama is expected to sign the appropriations package into law shortly.

The $400 million appropriation for Peace Corps is larger than Obama’s budget request, and it means that the agency should be able to place higher numbers of Volunteers in the field.

The $1.149 billion appropriation is the largest in the history of the Corporation for National and Community Service — $260 million more than last year. The increased funding will make it possible for the organization to move forward implementing initiatives authorized by April’s Serve America Act. Here’s an excerpt from this afternoon’s announcement:

The budget provides increases for all the Corporation’s programs, including a significant expansion of AmeriCorps, taking the first step towards the Serve America Act goal of 250,000 AmeriCorps members by 2017.  In addition to increasing member positions, the bill funds the first-ever increase in the dollar amount of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award members earn in return for their service. The $220.9 million for Senior Corps includes increases for all three Senior Corps programs and will support nearly 500,000 older volunteers to meet local needs through service.  The five percent increase for Learn and Serve America will support 1.3 million participants, increase the number of disadvantaged youth participating, and begin a 10-year longitudinal study on the impact of service-learning.

The legislation funds a number of new initiatives, including $50 million for the Social Innovation Fund, which will help solve some of our nation’s most difficult social challenges by investing in promising programs and practices that have demonstrated outcomes. In addition, $4 million was included for the Volunteer Generation Fund to develop and improve volunteer recruitment efforts, $1 million will support a new Nonprofit Capacity Building Program, and $2 million was allocated for a new Summer of Service program to engage middle school students in community-based service-learning projects.  For more information on the Corporation’s Fiscal 2010 budget, click here.