Happy AmeriCorps Week!

Happy AmeriCorps Week!  It’s the fifth annual AmeriCorps Week, a time to acknowledge the work that AmeriCorps members do each day to “make our people safer, smarter, and healthier…to strengthen our communities…to take action.”  On Friday, Megan wrote about how we kicked off AmeriCorps Week with Destination AmeriCorps.  It was so inspiring to be around AmeriCorps members and Alums from so many different programs in Maryland.   Their energy and passion for improving their communities reminded me why I’m so passionate about service.  I’m so passionate about it, that I wrote about AmeriCorps on Valentine’s Day.  I’m revisiting that post today.

If you’re an AmeriCorps member, take a moment this week to share your passion.  Tell someone about AmeriCorps.  Tell them how you get things done in your community.  If you know an AmeriCorps member, let him or her know that you appreciate their service.  Let’s all take this week to let the world know how important AmeriCorps is to our communities!

Originally posted February 14, 2011

It’s Valentine’s Day and that means I’m thinking about love.  Now you don’t have to brace yourself for some mushy declaration here, as that is just not my style.  Here’s what I want to declare – I love national service.  I love it because AmeriCorps members are essential to our communities, schools, neighborhoods, families, and our economy.  Not only do I love service, I know that we need it.  Service is not a nice extra; it’s an absolute necessity.

National service through AmeriCorps, in programs like Volunteer Maryland and many, many others, meets two big and important goals.  First, AmeriCorps members – and the volunteers they recruit, train, and supervise – meet serious community needs.  In our Volunteer Maryland Coordinator program, each AmeriCorps member recruits and coordinates an average of 175 volunteers each year.  Since our first group of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators began serving in 1993, we have engaged more than 90,000 community members in 1.4 million volunteer hours, serving nearly 1.2 million community members.  This is not only the right thing to do; it’s the right investment to make.  All of those hours of volunteering are worth more than $24 million to our economy.  This isn’t nice; this is necessary.

Secondly, service in AmeriCorps has an immediate and lasting impact on those who serve.  In an immediate sense, AmeriCorps provides a small living allowance and tangible job skills to individuals in need of employment. Beyond that, the long-term impact on AmeriCorps members is striking.  At Volunteer Maryland, we survey our alumni for three years after program completion.  Last year’s results were impressive – and consistent with what we’ve seen for years.  90 percent of VM alumni are currently involved in service activities.  They are working in the nonprofit sector, volunteering for Parent Teachers’ Associations, neighborhood watches, and food drives.  They are continuing to serve well beyond their AmeriCorps year.  This may seem nice, but I’ll say it again: this is necessary.

I love national service for the opportunity it gives to individuals who may not have much opportunity.  I love national service for empowering the young, old, and in between to step out of their comfort zones, learn new skills, and lift up their neighbors.  I love national service because it’s a smart investment.  I love national service because it is more than nice to do something that is completely necessary.

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