Annual Event Comes as AmeriCorps Expands and Applications Skyrocket by 230%
Washington DC -- From protecting rivers in Minnesota and greening New York City parks to building wheelchair ramps in Florida and restoring Alaska forest trails, the third annual AmeriCorps Week will spotlight how AmeriCorps members are tackling tough national problems through intensive national service.
The coast-to-coast recognition of AmeriCorps Week, May 9-16, includes more than 350 service projects and recruitment events, the announcement of AmeriCorps Recovery Act grants, Facebook and Twitter outreach, video and photo contest, appreciation events by Governors and major league baseball teams, alumni gatherings, presentations to schools and community groups, and more.
In the past 15 years, more than 574,000 men and women have taken AmeriCorps's pledge to “get things done for America,” providing more than 718 million hours of service, mobilizing tens of millions of volunteers, and improving the lives of countless citizens.
AmeriCorps Week is an opportunity to salute these men and women, thank the community partners that make their service possible, and recruit more Americans into service to meet local needs.
“Across the country, AmeriCorps members are helping communities fight poverty, mentor youth, recover from disasters, raise graduation rates, build homes, and tackle our toughest social challenges,” said Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps. “We want AmeriCorps Week to inspire millions more Americans to serve, whether through AmeriCorps or volunteering in your neighborhood.”
This year's effort comes at a time of strong momentum for national service. Last month President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which, among other provisions, will set AmeriCorps on a path to grow from 75,000 to 250,000 annual positions by the year 2017.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February provided $200 million to support up to 13,000 new AmeriCorps members serving in distressed communities. The first AmeriCorps VISTA members funded by the Recovery Act began serving last month, and the Corporation will announce AmeriCorps State and National grants supporting thousands of new positions during AmeriCorps Week.
Online applications to AmeriCorps have risen dramatically in recent months, fueled by a “compassion boom” of Americans wanting to help their neighbors in tough times, increased interest in public service by millennials and boomers, the economy, and an “Obama effect” of people responding to the President's call to service. Between November 2008 and April 2009, AmeriCorps received 76,404 online applications, up 230% from the 23,145 applications that came in the same six month period a year ago.
An AmeriCorps Week website, located at http://www.americorpsweek.gov, features a database of events, news, stories, and information about how to join. Some of the highlights for 2009 AmeriCorps Week include:
- New York -- AmeriCorps Week kicked off on Saturday in New York City, where Governor David Paterson and First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson joined 1,400 AmeriCorps members and corporate and community volunteers for a day-long service project focused on greening, neighborhood beautification, and energy conservation.
- Minnesota -- AmeriCorps members and community volunteers across the state will stencil storm drains that lead directly into the Mississippi River, alerting local residents to the impact that runoff has on the river's water quality. Volunteers will also provide information on water runoff to residents in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Duluth, Moorhead, and Winona. Corporation Board member Laysha Ward will participate in a statewide AmeriCorps conference on May 13th at the University of Minnesota.
- Michigan -- More than 300 AmeriCorps members from across the state will participate in two days of training, team building, and service, including constructing a playscape and landscaping projects in Flint's Grand Traverse neighborhood on May 15 and 16. Corporation board member Julie Fisher Cumming will speak at the closing event at 4 p.m., May 16.
- Florida -- AmeriCorps members and community volunteers at several sites throughout the state are participating in a “6 in 6” project to build six ramps in six days to make buildings accessible for people with physical disabilities.
- Georgia -- A beautification project is scheduled for May 15 at the Frazer Center in Atlanta, a center for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Among the participants will be Eric Tanenblatt, a member of the Corporation's board of directors. AmeriCorps members will clear walking paths, plant a garden, and establish native plants.
- Arizona -- Projects are talking place across the state including a disability inclusion film festival; AmeriCorps presentations to high school and college students; and service projects such as cleaning graffiti, planting gardens, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, and American Sign Language training.
- Cincinnati OH and Washington DC -- Major League Baseball is stepping up to the plate to celebrate AmeriCorps Week. More than 600 Ohio AmeriCorps members attended the Cincinnati Reds game on May 9. Seven members participated in an "on field" salute that included throwing out the first pitch, and AmeriCorps public service announcements ran on the scoreboard. A similar turnout is expected this Saturday, May 16 at the Washington Nationals game. This event, which will feature an on-field recognition and service project earlier in the day, will close out 2009 AmeriCorps Week.
- Video and Photo Contest: AmeriCorps is turning to its far-flung network of members and alums to submit 60-second videos or still photos showing how AmeriCorps gets things done in local communities. Prizes include Flip Video™ digital camcorders from Pure Digital. The contest website is http://www.americorpscontest.org.
- AmeriCorps is using social media tools to spread the word about AmeriCorps Week. The AmeriCorps Week Facebook page has more than 1,400 fans, and there are 300-plus followers on the AmeriCorps Week Twitter feed.
AmeriCorps was established in 1993 as a way for Americans to give back to their communities and country and earn money for college in return. AmeriCorps members serve with more than 4,100 nonprofit, faith-based, and community groups each year, helping them expand their reach and better meet their mission.. Last year AmeriCorps members mobilized or managed 2.2 million volunteers for the organizations they serve.