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Opinion: This program puts people to work serving America. Now it’s going to jump in size

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As part of Covid’s aid package last week, Democrats approved an infusion of $ 1 billion per AmeriCorps, the umbrella organization for national service that helps support a network of more than 2,000 nonprofit, faith-based and community-based organizations. According to AmeriCorps Press Secretary Samantha Jo Warfield, this is the largest increase in the program’s history. it almost doubles the organization’s budget and is entirely aimed at helping the victims of the pandemic and the nation recover.

National service is the rare policy that can unite Americans in a common call and restore communities decimated by the cascade of crises we now face. And the last few months have shown what good AmeriCorps can do for our country.

In May 2020, as the pandemic continued to harden, more than 800 members of AmeriCorps in Colorado partnered with the state government to help carry out contract tracking. Volunteers provided additional capacity for case investigation, helped refer patients to local public health agencies, and worked with residents to assess symptoms and provide information on quarantine measures. Sarah Tuneberg, leader of the Colorado Covid-19 innovation response team, described AmericaCorps volunteers as “essential to helping the state of Colorado and Covid’s response” for an unprecedented amount of time.
In Arizona, members of AmeriCorps he intervened assist the Government of the Chinle Chapter of the Navajo Nation in responding to the pandemic. Native American communities have been especially affected by the virus, both because of the base chronic health problems many members of the community are confronted and because many components of tribal economies – gambling and tourism – they were devastated last year. AmeriCorps volunteers, who worked alongside nonprofits, intervened to deliver food to families in need and provide essential goods to the elderly.

All in all, according to AmeriCorps Warfield, tens of thousands of AmeriCorps members have spent millions of hours relieving Covid, reaching millions in their efforts. Since the pandemic began, AmeriCorps has told us that it has distributed 32,000 tons of food and provided educational programs to hundreds of thousands of students, both virtual and face-to-face. Alabama volunteer Eden Williamson said his work in educational support gave him “the opportunity to change a child’s life and see possibilities rather than limitations.”

AmeriCorps says members have also been a lifeline for isolated seniors and a guide for those who need it recently, navigating the complicated network of services. In Florida, for example, Andrea Kent delivered low-income care packages and facilitated conversations with the Lawn Chair. There, he listened carefully to their concerns and made sure their needs were met afterwards, often checking in after hours to make sure they felt supported at a difficult time.

Even as we begin to see the light, AmeriCorps volunteers continue to contribute to our communities. In recent weeks, Warfield said more than 500 members support vaccination sites in a dozen states, helping more than 350,000 people across vaccination sites across the country.

These stories of AmeriCorps volunteers during the pandemic rekindle a dream that has attracted many conservatives and liberals since the Great Depression: a dream that one day every young person in the United States between the ages of 18 and 25 would volunteer at least one year in community and nation service.

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Famously, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civil Conservation Corps the spring of 1933 with the aim of enlisting 250,000 young men to work in ruined parks and forests across America in early summer. At the height of August 1935, 500,000 they were registered. Although it had flaws, the CCC became one of the most popular programs on the New Deal, which eventually enlisted almost 3 million young men who related to their counterparts through public service.
Since then, the presidents of both sides have pursued parallel ideas. John F. Kennedy started the Bodies of peace; George HW Bush gave it to us Light points, a support network for volunteer organizations around the world; and Bill Clinton created AmeriCorps. Today, AmeriCorps allows people of all ages to serve communities across the country, providing health benefits, living stipends and educational rewards to members in exchange for their service.
It is important to note that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are now being pushed for a much stronger national service program. On the hill of the Capitol, a bipartisan alliance of U.S. senators – nine Republicans, eight Democrats and one Independent – is led with passion and determination by Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. In the White House, they like the main presidential advisers Ron Klain i Bruce Reed they have been supporters for a long time. Like the prominent guardians of national security I like former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, general Stanley McChrystal, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the late Secretary of State George Shultz.
Most of these AmeriCorps allies are working to increase this $ 1 billion “down payment,” as Says Senator Coons. In a few years, they hope that we can actually increase the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 a year to 250,000, the goal set by a large bipartisan majority more than a decade ago in Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Hunger exists among young people: for the last count, AmeriCorps organizations receive four to five times as many applications as they can accept, and the numbers are growing.
Victor Hugo once he wrote: “There’s something stronger than all the armies in the world, and it’s an idea that the time has come.” National service has not yet become such a powerful idea, but it is certainly moving in the right direction.

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