Fact Sheet: USA Freedom Corps Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary
In his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, President George W. Bush issued a national Call to Service -- urging Americans to dedicate two years -- or 4,000 hours -- over the course of their lifetimes to serving their communities. He announced the creation of the USA Freedom Corps to help Americans find volunteer opportunities in three areas of need: responding in case of crisis at home; rebuilding our communities; and extending American compassion throughout the world.
In the last two years, the USA Freedom Corps has mobilized more Americans to engage in volunteer service, strengthened national service programs, supported the teaching of American history and civics, and established new volunteer initiatives to better serve important community needs.
MOBILIZING MORE AMERICANS TO SERVE
The USA Freedom Corps has expanded access to volunteer opportunities available across the country and around the world through the USA Freedom Corps Volunteer Network -- the largest and most comprehensive online clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities ever established. The USA Freedom Corps Volunteer Network now offers opportunities to work with more than 75,000 organizations, up from 60,000 organizations offered in 2002.
The President's Call to Service is producing results. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 63 million Americans volunteered from September 2002 to September 2003, up from 59.8 million during the prior 12 months. The percentage of the American population participating in volunteer service during the same time period increased to 28.8 percent, up from 27.4 percent for the prior 12 months. On average, volunteers dedicated 52 hours in service to others -- more than one full week of work -- and teenagers demonstrated the greatest increase in volunteer service, up 2.6 percentage points to 29.5 percent.
In 2003, President Bush created the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation to inspire more Americans to answer his Call to Service by making a difference in their communities. This past year, the President's Council announced the availability of the President's Volunteer Service Award -- a presidential award program designed to recognize Americans who make a sustained commitment to volunteer service throughout the year.
STRENGTHENING NATIONAL SERVICE
The USA Freedom Corps has worked with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to strengthen national service programs that will enable and encourage more Americans to serve in their communities.
- In 2003, 533,000 Senior Corps volunteers -- 33,000 more volunteers than the year before -- volunteered to help local organizations provide a wide range of community services, such as tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged youth, conducting neighborhood watch patrols, and providing assistance to homebound seniors.
- AmeriCorps recently received a historic funding increase that meets the President's request to support a record 75,000 AmeriCorps volunteers helping to meet education, public safety, and environmental needs.
- Through CNCS, more than $18 million has been distributed over the past two years to support volunteer projects relating to public safety, public health, and emergency preparedness and response, creating more opportunities for volunteers to help with homeland security.
President Bush created the Citizen Corps, an integral component of the USA Freedom Corps, to engage Americans in volunteer activities that will make our communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to emergencies while providing opportunities to serve in everyday healthcare and citizen preparedness activities.
Citizen Corps includes four Federal programs: Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers In Police Service (VIPS), Medical Reserve Corps, and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).
- Over the past two years, Neighborhood Watch has significantly increased the number of communities served nationwide.
- VIPS has expanded from 76 police department programs in January 2002 to 740 registered programs today, representing more than 40,000 volunteers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
- $10 million in Federal funds has been distributed to 167 communities to strengthen Medical Reserve Corps units that offer retired and practicing medical professionals the opportunity to lend their skills and expertise in times of emergency as well as support important public health initiatives throughout the year.
- CERT has grown from 100 communities in 27 states in January 2002 to more than 900 communities in 51 states and territories today. CERT training provides training in emergency preparedness and basic response techniques to volunteers, enabling them to take a more active role in personal and public safety.
Since the President's 2002 State of the Union address, nearly 1,000 communities, serving more than one-third of the U.S. population, have established Citizen Corps Councils to coordinate and expand opportunities for citizen volunteers to engage in homeland security efforts. The Department of Homeland Security announced $35 million in Federal funds for FY 2004 to provide necessary resources for State and local governments to support Citizen Corps.
Currently, there are more than 7,500 Americans serving in the Peace Corps in over 70 countries. This represents the largest number of Peace Corps volunteers who have served overseas in the last 28 years.
Over the past two years, the Peace Corps has opened or re-opened programs in 14 countries, including Turkmenistan, Swaziland, Albania, Chad, and Azerbaijan. In addition, the Peace Corps signed a historic agreement with Mexico that will send Peace Corps volunteers to Mexico for the first time beginning in 2004. Peace Corps volunteers in Mexico will work in the areas of information technology, science, and small business development.
MEETING COMMUNITY NEEDS
In 2003, the USA Freedom Corps focused on specific areas of need where volunteers have been making a difference and developed new opportunities for government and private institutions to enhance these efforts for the benefit of our communities.
Focusing on youth achievement, President Bush announced $450 million in Federal funds over three years to support schools, non-profit, community, and faith-based organizations that will help match disadvantaged children with caring adult mentors. Congress approved $100 million in Federal funds for 2004 that will support the development, expansion, and strengthening of exemplary mentoring programs specifically targeted at disadvantaged middle school students and 100,000 children of prisoners. The USA Freedom Corps web site also includes valuable information and toolkits for volunteers and organizations looking for ways to make a difference by mentoring a child, teaching someone to read, or improving economic literacy among youth.
In order to encourage citizen stewardship and offer Americans meaningful opportunities to make a difference for our public lands the Department of Interior in coordination with the USA Freedom Corps revived Take Pride In America, a national partnership that provides opportunities for volunteers to help protect and preserve our parks, refuges, and recreation areas, as well as cultural and historical sites.
TEACHING AMERICAN HISTORY AND CIVICS
The National Endowment for the Humanities, Department of Education, Corporation for National and Community Service, and the USA Freedom Corps hosted "We the People -- A White House Forum on American History, Civics and Service," to highlight the need to improve American history and civics education, particularly through student service. This forum also featured the first "Heroes of History" lecture, an annual event featuring an acclaimed scholar telling the story of an American hero.
More than 65 grants were awarded to schools, universities, and cultural institutions through the National Endowment for the Humanities "We the People" program to support teacher training and other programs that enhance the study and understanding of American history and culture. Additional grants were also awarded to support summer seminars and institutes for K-12 school teachers at important historical sites around the country, such as presidential homes, battlefields, and archaeological sites.
EXPANDING VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
In order to harness the overwhelming interest among Americans in serving abroad, President Bush created Volunteers for Prosperity -- a new initiative that provides volunteer opportunities for highly-skilled and trained individuals to serve in flexible, short-term assignments with voluntary and non-governmental organizations that work to support U.S. development initiatives overseas. These volunteers will serve with more than 100 organizations to provide health care, information technology, financial services, trade and investment, education, and agricultural development services.
Established to promote economic growth and enhance business competitiveness in developing countries, the Digital Freedom Initiative has placed volunteers with business knowledge and technology expertise with small businesses and entrepreneurs in Senegal, Peru, and Indonesia. More countries are expected to become a part of this new initiative in the near future.
In partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, the USA Freedom Corps created "On the Homefront" to offer meaningful opportunities for individuals, organizations, and businesses looking for ways to help military families during times of deployment. Working with non-profit, veteran, and community-serving organizations, the USA Freedom Corps provides opportunities to help families of reservists, National Guard men and women, and active duty military meet basic home and family needs, such as household repairs, financial planning, and child care.
FIND OUT MORE For more information about the USA Freedom Corps, visit www.usafreedomcorps.gov or call 1-877-USA-CORPS.
George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: USA Freedom Corps Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/281850