- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

The USA Freedom Corps that President Bush has invited every American to join encompasses a staggering array of initiatives and volunteer programs, many of which have been functioning successfully for years.
The $560 million initiative creates a new program called the Citizens Corps, which allows volunteers with various skills to contribute to domestic security through a variety of local initiatives. It expands the Peace Corps, whose membership will be doubled to 15,000 the record high it reached in 1966. It also expands the nine-year-old Corporation for National and Community Service.
The corporation administers the Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America programs.
The aim is to bring 125,000 new volunteers to those programs, and it's hoped the newcomers will enlist 75,000 additional volunteers.
Among other elements, Mr. Bush's plan:
Requires colleges to assign half of the Work-Study program funds they receive to pay for community service programs. Under the plan, about 250,000 students will do roughly 10 hours of nonprofit work each week.
Create a "crisis corps" within the Peace Corps to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Peace Corps would also return volunteers to Peru and to emerging nations such as East Timor.
Leslie Lenkowsky, the community service corporation's chief executive, calls the presidential initiative "a terrific idea" and "a really serious effort to put in place a structure that makes an increase in volunteering a reality."
And Sara E. Melendez, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group for grant-making organizations and national nonprofits like Goodwill Industries and the Girl Scouts, said:
"We're heartened the president wants Americans to dig deeper and do more. Even having people clean parks and mentor kids strengthens communities. When we do that here and around the world, we increase security here and everywhere else especially where horror is incubated."
Freedom Corps' operations will be overseen by a council of various federal-agency heads.
It chaired by the president and administered by a White House presidential assistant who reports directly to Mr. Bush and is charged with recommending ways to improve volunteer recruiting and volunteer services.
Presidential aides describe the new Corps as "a comprehensive, integrated citizen service initiative." And it is comprehensive.
It has been set up to find useful ways for almost anyone to engage in meaningful work that contributes to civil welfare or to build what Mr. Bush has termed "a new culture of responsibility."
There are programs for teaching, policing and home-building. There is a program for retired physicians that in effect creates a reserve medical force that can be called on in a man-made or natural disaster.
There is another for bus and truck drivers, seamen, pilots and others in the transportation industry to volunteer as trouble spotters armed with hotline numbers to call when they see suspicious activity.
And there are special programs to aid local police.
Many of the programs have direct ties to federal, state or local agencies.
The new Citizen Corps will be coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Volunteers in Police Service program, for instance, will be linked to local police agencies and to established Neighborhood Watch organizations.

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