“AmeriCorps members help our communities tackle their toughest problems - from poverty and illiteracy to crime and disasters - through a new mix of social entrepreneurship, civic engagement and volunteering,” said David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps programs including state and national grants, VISTA, and NCCC.
“It’s hard to exaggerate how much stronger our communities and our nation are today as a result of the contributions of those 500,000 AmeriCorps members,” said Eisner. “What they get done during their service is extraordinary; and their engagement in their communities in their years after AmeriCorps is even more inspiring. We want AmeriCorps Week to inspire millions more Americans to jump on the service bandwagon, whether through AmeriCorps programs, VISTA, NCCC or other programs like Citizen Corps or Peace Corps.”
AmeriCorps Week will highlight the community partners that deploy AmeriCorps members, from prominent national organizations such as Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, City Year, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the American Red Cross, as well the 2,000 plus local nonprofit, education, and faith-based grantees and projects that sponsor AmeriCorps members each year. It will also tap the far-flung network of AmeriCorps alumni and the 50 governor-appointed service commissions that administer AmeriCorps programs in their states.
The theme of the inaugural AmeriCorps Week is “Getting Things Done,” which reflects the pledge every AmeriCorps member takes at the beginning of his or her service and also the longtime AmeriCorps mantra – meeting local needs, strengthening communities, and achieving results.
Across the country, grassroots events for the AmeriCorps Week will include AmeriCorps members and alums talking about their service experience with elementary, high school, and college students, some of whom participate in service-learning programs supported by the Corporation’s Learn and Serve America program. Elected officials and community leaders will be getting a first-hand look by participating in “AmeriCorps-for-a-Day” events. Several governor-appointed service commissions are holding statewide trainings and service projects for AmeriCorps members and alums. Open houses, recruitment events, and community service projects are also in the works. A new AmeriCorps Week website, located at http://www.americorps.gov/about/americorpsweek/index.asp, features an interactive database of AmeriCorps Week events and news, stories, and information about how to join AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps Week kicks off May 14 in Portland, Ore., where 300 national service participants from Washington and Oregon will gather to reflect on their service experience. A closing ceremony will be held on Sunday May 20 in Biloxi, Miss., in conjunction with a massive build-a-thon where 500 Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps members from across the country will join with other volunteers to build 20 homes in one week for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
National events for AmeriCorps Week will include:
A YouTube-style video contest kicking off on May 1 that is seeking the best 30-60 second video about AmeriCorps for use in recruitment efforts;
Announcement of the winners of the 2007 AmeriCorps national and state grant competitions;
Release of a new research report about the impacts of AmeriCorps on members and organizations;
Unveiling of a new multi-media recruitment campaign for AmeriCorps VISTA, the poverty-fighting branch of AmeriCorps; and
AmeriCorps was created by President Clinton and Congress in 1993 as a way for Americans to give back to their communities and country and earn money for college in return. President Bush embraced AmeriCorps and expanded the program by 50 percent to support 75,000 AmeriCorps positions annually. Today AmeriCorps enjoys widespread bipartisan support in Congress and among the nation’s Governors, who play a key role in determining where AmeriCorps funds can best be invested to meet state and local needs.
Since its creation in 1994, AmeriCorps members have provided more than 637 million hours of service. Using Independent Sector’s estimate of the dollar value of a volunteer’s time, those hours equate to more than $11.9 billion dollars in value. In addition to their direct service, AmeriCorps members have proved to be a powerful force multiplier for volunteer efforts. In 2006 alone, AmeriCorps members recruited and managed 1.4 million community volunteers. Once they complete their service, AmeriCorps alums remain highly engaged and active in their communities volunteering and entering public service careers at disproportionately high levels.
“AmeriCorps members are helping to build a national culture of service,” said AmeriCorps Director Kristin McSwain. “Through their direct service and the volunteers they mobilize, they are building stronger, healthier, and safer communities, and improving the lives of millions of our most vulnerable citizens.”
McSwain highlighted a key goal of the week – recruiting the next class of AmeriCorps members. “Graduation season is the perfect time to shine the spotlight on AmeriCorps. Whether you are graduating, taking time off, or changing careers, AmeriCorps is a great way to get skills and college aid while making a difference for your community.”
Other events planned for AmeriCorps Week include:
The Massachusetts Service Alliance is kicking off its celebration of AmeriCorps Week during the statewide Park Serve Day on May 12, when 50 state parks will be targeted with service projects. On May 17, the Alliance is sponsoring an All-AmeriCorps Day in Worcester, with a service expo in which organizations are invited to provide information on continuing service after AmeriCorps.
The National Health Corps will launch a 24x4 initiative during AmeriCorps Week featuring 24 hours of service across four sites – a Florida, Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – to raise awareness, address community health needs, and recruit more volunteers.
City Year sites across the country will host celebration dinners with speakers and honorees including Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, Former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, AOL Founder Steve Case and Case Foundation Director Jean Case, and REI CEO Sally Jewell.
Volunteer Tennessee is sponsoring an “Empowering Yourself, Empowering Your Community” conference featuring workshops relevant to AmeriCorps members’ current service projects and future endeavors following their AmeriCorps Service.
The Michigan Community Service Commission is coordinating the AmeriCorps Week 100 Hours of Power service project at the 2007 Michigan Nonprofit SuperConference in Lansing, May 15-16.
AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, which also oversees Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America. Together with the USA Freedom Corps, the Corporation is working to build a culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility in America. For more information, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov/.