- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

The Bush administration yesterday announced a new ad campaign designed to encourage more people to volunteer in AmeriCorps and similar programs, and urged Congress to pass legislation to expand national volunteer programs.
The bilingual public service announcements, "Americans Give Back," were distributed to more than 7,000 television and radio outlets that are running the ads for free. The ads feature volunteers who challenge Americans to share their "kindness and compassion."
"After September 11, I knew I wanted to do something to make a difference, so I joined AmeriCorps," said Ericka Tapia, an AmeriCorps member from Brooklyn who is featured in the television public service announcement.
While volunteerism rose in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the nation "still has a great need for volunteers in homeland security and in many other areas," said Leslie Lenkowsky, chief executive officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America programs.
"We have long been unique among the nations in our willingness to give and volunteer, especially in the face of local and national emergencies," said Mr. Lenkowsky, who spoke at the National Press Club yesterday.
In January, President Bush called on all Americans to dedicate at least two years or 4,000 hours over the course of their lives to community service. He also created the USA Freedom Corps, a broad-based White House effort which includes CNCS to encourage volunteerism.
Mr. Lenkowsky said Congress can aid the effort by passing the president's proposal to expand national volunteer programs, including AmeriCorps. The House Education and the Workforce Committee passed a slightly scaled-back version of the proposal and it is awaiting floor action.
But House Republicans have opposed the Clinton-era AmeriCorps program in the past, and some are wary about expanding it and other similar programs. Some Republicans do not like AmeriCorps because they say it's wrong to pay people to volunteer.
"As it stands now, there's not a lot of support among rank and file Republicans for some of the expansions in the bill," said a House Republican leadership aide. "It's going to take a little more time for the administration to share their views with House Republicans on expanding this program."
Mr. Lenkowsky noted that some Republicans who have opposed it in the past, decided to support the bill. The bill includes reforms like increased accountability for AmeriCorps and other volunteer programs, and more state and local control over the federal dollars they receive.
AmeriCorps has more than 50,000 members who volunteer in education, public safety, public health, and the environment and receive a stipend for education. They serve with small nonprofit and faith-based organizations nationwide, as well as prominent groups like Habitat for Humanity and Teach for America.
More than half a million Americans age 55 and over volunteer through Senior Corps.
The ads feature a toll-free recruitment number, 800/424-8867, and a Web site address, nationalservice.org.

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