Volunteering Up, Momentum Strong One Year After Kennedy Serve America Act Signed

Volunteering Up, Momentum Strong One Year After Kennedy Serve America Act Signed
Apr 21, 2010

Corvington Honors Kennedy, Outlines Strategy for Success

Washington, DC—One year after the enactment of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, volunteering is up, momentum is strong, and a new vision for service is taking effect. Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, brought that message to the nation's service leaders at a luncheon to honor Senator Kennedy's legacy and the anniversary of the legislation.

“Service is the great force that unites us all as Americans,” Corvington said in the keynote address. “As Senator Kennedy often noted, Americans want to serve. All we have to do is ask. The Serve America Act is doing the asking. One year later, the good Senator would be pleased to know, the American people are answering yes.” Americans are answering President Obama's call to serve in record numbers – 1.5 million more people volunteered last year over 2008.

“In these tough times, volunteers are performing vital services from providing employment training and counseling to curbing the dropout rate in cities large and small," added Corvington. “The Serve America Act positions citizen service at the center of our nation's response to crises in education, health, clean energy, veterans, and economic opportunity. And it challenges us to do a better job of demonstrating and measuring our ability to solve problems,” he said. When addressing the transformative effect of service on our social ills and the impact of the Corporation's programs, Corvington added, “We must not only try, we must succeed. In fulfilling the promise of the Serve America Act, we must transform service from a hope and a dream to a real solution.” Click here to read Corvington's entire speech.

Corvington outlined four major goals the Corporation has set for implementing the legislation:

  • To make service a solution to our national challenges such as historic unemployment levels and poverty;
  • To expand opportunities for more Americans of all ages and backgrounds to serve;
  • To build the capacity of individuals, non-profits, corporations and communities by giving them the tools they needs to succeed; and
  • To embrace innovation by expanding proven programs and seeding promising emerging ones.

In addition to today's speech, Corvington recorded a video message to the national service field on the implementation of the Serve America Act. Visit Serve.gov to view the message.

The Corporation moved swiftly to implement the legislation after it went into effect on Oct. 1, 2009. The agency conducted a lengthy listening tour and incorporated public input into the development of new policies and grants. To date, the Corporation has made more than $420 million in grants available to expand the agency's programs and carry out new initiatives authorized under the Act, including the Social Innovation Fund, Volunteer Generation Fund, Nonprofit Capacity Building Program, and the Learn and Serve America Summer of Service program. Last month, the Corporation awarded $2 million in Summer of Service grants to 17 organizations that will engage middle school-aged youth in service this summer. Click here to learn more about the Corporation's progress in implementing the Serve America Act.

The programs of the Serve America Act have generated strong interest and a high volume of applications from organizations and individuals, reflecting growing recognition that service is a valuable way to address community challenges. More than 500 organizations applied for the AmeriCorps State/National competition, 217 groups applied for Learn and Serve America Summer of Service grants, and 300 concept papers were sent for the RSVP competition. Online applications to AmeriCorps have also skyrocketed, totaling 246,842 in 2009, a 170 percent increase over the previous year.

Among other speakers at the luncheon sponsored by ServiceNation, America Forward, Voices for National Service, and the Points of Light Institute was Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wife of the late senator, and Melody Barnes, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who co-sponsored the legislation with Senator Kennedy, appeared in a videotaped message.

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