Washington, D.C. – In an appearance before members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Wendy Spencer, the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), outlined the unique role of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs in the nation's efforts to support veterans and military families.
Spencer said the agency is positioned to increase its commitment by working with other federal agencies and private-sector partners to help serve more veterans as well as recruit them to participate in national service programs.
“We are a grant-making agency built on private-public partnerships,” Spencer said. “Each year, we generate the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in private and other outside sources. We recruit, mobilize, and manage 80,000 AmeriCorps members, 330,000 Senior Corps participants, and 4.5 million community volunteers. Through our vast network of grantees and partners, dedicated Americans serve in 70,000 locations across the nation.”
Last year, AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers served about 1.5 million veterans and military family members in every state, and more than 27,000 veterans served in the programs. Over the past three years, CNCS has awarded national service grants to more than 240 organizations in more than 400 communities across the country to serve the veteran and military family community.
“Our commitment to veterans and their families is deep and it's twofold: We serve them, and we ask them to serve with us,” Spencer said. “Both strategies have tremendous benefits and results.”
National service members serve at hundreds of VA clinics and hospitals, and at veteran service organizations and nonprofits. They connect veterans to job opportunities, help them access their benefits, provide peer counseling, and mentor military kids.
To illustrate how national service also taps the skills and experience of veterans, Spencer shared the story of Mike Bremer, an Iraq War veteran who served in AmeriCorps through the Southwest Conservation Corps. This program provides opportunities for veterans to serve as team leaders maintaining and responding to wild-fires on national lands.
Bremer showed stellar performance and leadership, was recognized nationally as Corps Member of the Year, and was promoted to a crew leader – a precursor to his now full-time job with the U.S. Forest Service.
“Mike Bremer found his next mission. And we know what ours is,” Spencer said. “We are poised, ready, and committed to work with each of the committee members and the VA to serve our veterans and their families as well as they have served all of us.”