- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Former Americorps volunteers are likely to be more active in their communities and to have careers in public service than those who did not participate in the program, according to a survey released yesterday.

“People who take the Americorps pledge and fulfill their year of service end up as more engaged citizens than they would have been had they not participated,” said David Eisner, chief executive officer of the Corporation on National and Community Service, which oversees Americorps.

The independent survey, released yesterday by Mr. Eisner, tracked 2,000 Americorps volunteers who were enrolled in the 1999-2000 service year, as well as 2,000 persons who expressed an interest in Americorps but did not volunteer.

It found, among other things, that the former volunteers had more connection to their communities, knowledge of community problems and participation in community activities than those who did not volunteer. The study also found that Americorps volunteers who hadn’t done volunteer work previously stayed active and engaged in community service after completing their term.

Former Americorps volunteers also are more likely than their counterparts to choose service-oriented careers, such as teaching, social work, the military or public safety, the study says.

Participants in the 10-year-old, Clinton-era Americorps program tutor children, build affordable housing, teach computer skills, train other volunteers and perform many other services for one-year terms. After completing the program, they receive $4,725 to use for their education.

Conservatives have long complained that the government shouldn’t pay people to “volunteer.” And the program came under fire a few years back for mismanaging the money Congress gave it by selecting more volunteers than Congress allowed.

Mr. Eisner said those problems — while “bruising” — are “in the rearview mirror,” thanks to tighter fiscal accountability, improved procedures for reviewing grant applications and other key changes. He said the program has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress recently, and that yesterday’s survey should show the value of service programs to the nation.

“Service programs are important contributors to the long-term civic health of our nation,” he said, noting that last year, for example, a mere 450 Americorps volunteers trained and supervised more than 150,000 community volunteers who helped build Habitat for Humanity homes.

The Americorps program received $430.5 million from Congress for fiscal 2005, a small reduction from the fiscal 2004 level of $441 million, but a notable increase from the 2003 level of $273 million.

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