Albuquerque, NM – Capping off a big week for service, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service Nicola Goren traveled here today to swear in the first of up to 13,000 AmeriCorps members funded by the Recovery Act, putting boots on the ground to assist Americans hardest hit by the economic downturn.
Goren administered the oath of office to about 200 AmeriCorps VISTA members at the conclusion of their three-day pre-service training. The VISTAs will serve with nonprofit and faith-based groups across the southwestern U.S., providing foreclosure prevention and financial counseling, expanding college access, helping ex-offenders re-enter society, organizing literacy programs, and supporting health care and independent living services.
“In this time of economic crisis, we need service and volunteering more than ever,” said Goren. “We worked hard and fast to get these recovery funds into communities, and I’m delighted to be here just two months after the law was signed to swear in the first Recovery Act AmeriCorps members. These VISTAs will serve in our most vulnerable communities, providing hope and help to people facing economic crisis.”
The VISTAs represent the first large batch of AmeriCorps members funded by the Recovery Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on February 17. The bill included $65 million to support as many as 3,000 new VISTA members expanding the capacity of organizations fighting poverty through fundraising, recruiting and managing volunteers, community outreach, developing partnerships, and creating sustainable programs.
The Recovery Act also provides $89 million in AmeriCorps state and national grants, which will be announced in the coming weeks and may support up to 10,000 additional members, and $40 million for Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards for AmeriCorps members who complete their service to pay for college or pay back student loans.
Goren reflected on the history of the moment, coming 45 years after President Johnson swore in the first group of VISTA volunteers and just days after President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, the most sweeping expansion of national service in generations. Among other provisions, the legislation puts AmeriCorps on a path to grow from 75,000 to 250,000 members per year by the year 2017, and directs AmeriCorps to work on critical national problems including education, health care, clean energy, veterans, and poverty.
“The rapid pace and broad bipartisan support for the Serve America Act reflect the growing national consensus that service is a solution to many of the social challenges facing America today,” said Goren. “Across the country, people are looking for ways to help their neighbors and their communities. This law will help us channel more of that energy into meeting local and national needs.”
The ceremony came after Goren toured several Albuquerque national service projects including VSA of New Mexico, the Southwest Youth Services AmeriCorps VISTA Program, and a Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Open Space Project. Greg Webb, Executive Director of the Governor's Commission on Community Volunteerism, Marcia Medina, the Corporation’s New Mexico State Director, and other New Mexico dignitaries accompanied Goren during her visit.
Goren added that VISTA, with its anti-poverty focus, is ideally suited to assist individuals and communities suffering the effects of the economic downturn. “VISTA delivers significant and sustainable results that reduce poverty and make a real difference in the lives of America’s poor.” Last year more than 7,000 VISTAs served with nearly 1,000 nonprofit, grassroots organizations and local government agencies, generating $183 million in cash and in-kind resources for their projects, and mobilizing more than one million community volunteers.
The infusion of up to 13,000 new Recovery Act AmeriCorps positions comes as AmeriCorps is experiencing a significant surge of applications. Last month, AmeriCorps received 17,038 online applications, nearly triple the 6,770 received in March 2008. In the past five months, AmeriCorps received 48,520 online applications, up 234 percent over the 14,532 that came in during the same five month period a year ago. Many volunteer centers and nonprofit groups are also reporting a “compassion boom” of increased numbers of volunteers.
AmeriCorps is recruiting now for Recovery Act and other positions. Interested individuals should visit http://www.americorps.gov or call 1-800-942-2677 to learn more and apply online.
Organizations Receiving AmeriCorps VISTA Members Funded By Recovery Act
Participating in April 22-24, 2009 PSO Training
- Arkansas State CASA
- Future Builders, Inc.
- Kids Life at LifeSource
- North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education
- GCCS VISTA Project
- Washburn University Learning in the Community (LinC)
- St. Bernard Project
- The Helping Hand of Goodwill Industries
- Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Inc
- Smiles Change Lives
- South Grand Senior Ministry Network
- Concilio Campesino del Sudoeste, Inc.
- Mesa United Way
- VISTA Cadre Project/ NM Indian Affairs Department
- Fitting Back In, World Won Development Center
- Abundance Living
- Alameda Heights Community Outreach
- College For All Texans
- Houston Hope
- Pharr Literacy Project
- Texas Conference of Churches
- Texas Homeless Network