Washington D.C. -- President Obama’s pledge to make service a central cause of his presidency has resulted in major achievements in the first 100 days, from passage of landmark legislation expanding service opportunities to funding new AmeriCorps positions to inspiring Americans to help their neighbors at a time of need.
Propelled by an economic crisis that has increased the need for volunteers, President Obama’s call to service has been met with bipartisan victories in Congress, appreciation from the nonprofit sector, and a ‘compassion boom’ by Americans eager to serve their communities.
Last week’s signing of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act – sweeping legislation to usher in a new generation of service that swiftly passed Congress with strong bipartisan support – was the latest in a string of early accomplishments on a cause close to the President’s heart – unleashing the power of ordinary citizens to make change in their communities.
“We are grateful to the President and Congress for making service such a high priority and for so quickly enacting major national service legislation,” said Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers domestic service and volunteer programs. “The President said service would be a central cause of his Administration, and we have seen extraordinary results in the first 100 days.”
Service milestones in the first 100 days include:
- January 19: King Day of Service: President-elect Obama made service a centerpiece of his Inauguration, calling on Americans to honor Dr. Martin Luther King by joining in service projects on the King Holiday. The Presidential Inaugural Committee partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service, which was charged by Congress 14 years ago with transforming the King Holiday into a national day of service. In 2008, there were about a half million volunteers serving in 5,000 projects. This year, fueled by the President-elect’s call to service, that number more than doubled, with 13,000 projects and over a million volunteers, including the President-elect and Michelle Obama and Vice President-elect and Dr. Jill Biden.
- January 20: Inaugural Address: In his Inaugural, the President called for “a new era of responsibility” and Americans are answering that call. In recent months, many volunteer centers and nonprofit groups have reported a surge in new recruits, and applications to AmeriCorps and other public service positions have risen dramatically. AmeriCorps received 17,038 online applications in March, nearly triple the 6,770 received in March of 2008. In the past five months, AmeriCorps received 48,520 online applications, up 234% over the 14,532 applications it received during the same five month period a year ago.
- February 17: AmeriCorps in Recovery Act: The President worked with Congress to include $200 million for the Corporation for National and Community Service in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funding will support up to 13,000 new AmeriCorps members to serve in our most economically distressed communities, 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, and more. The first 100 Recovery Act AmeriCorps members began their service on April 24, and thousands more will start in the coming months.
- February 26: FY 2010 Budget Request: President Obama’s FY 2010 budget request proposes $1.13 billion for the Corporation and its programs, an increase of $241 million or about 25% from the 2009 level. This request demonstrates the President’s strong commitment to national service and his belief in the critical importance of engaging citizens in tackling the tough challenges facing our nation.
- April 21: Signing of Serve America Act: Joined by Vice President Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr, Jill Biden, Members of Congress, former President Clinton, former First Lady Rosalyn Carter, and an audience of nonprofit leaders and national service volunteers, President Obama signed the landmark Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law on April 21. President Obama called for passage of this legislation in his address to Congress on February 25, and it went from introduction to final passage in just 22 days. The most sweeping expansion of national service in generations, this law reauthorizes and expands the Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, puts AmeriCorps on a path to grow from 75,000 to 250,000 positions over the next eight years, increases opportunities for students and older Americans to serve, and strengthens America’s civic infrastructure by investing in social innovation and volunteer generation. For a bill summary, click here.
“In this time of economic crisis, we need service and volunteering more than ever. The downturn means more Americans are suffering, putting more pressure on nonprofits, and service and volunteering can help fill the gap,” said Goren. “We are thrilled that the President and Congress have put service high on the agenda, and that the President’s call to service is striking a responsive chord with the American public.”