- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

Helping re-illuminate and bolster ‘a thousand points of light’

The largest private university in North America - the University of Phoenix - is partnering with the largest volunteer network in America - the Points of Light Institute’s HandsOn Network - to develop a new cadre of volunteers.

HandsOn, which has more than 250 action centers that reach more than 83 percent of the nation’s population, has a network of more than 70,000 corporate, religious and nonprofit organizations. In 2008, it delivered approximately 30 million hours of volunteer service valued at $615 million. This year, HandsOn has seen a 43 percent increase in volunteers registering to serve and a 58 percent increase in people signing up for new opportunities.

On Oct. 16 at the George Bush Presidential Library Center at Texas A&M University, President Obama will hold a forum on community service. The host will be former President George H.W. Bush and the Points of Light Institute, whose name originated in a State of the Union address by the former president.

“We have within our reach the promise of renewed America,” Mr. Bush said in his 1991 speech. “We can find meaning and reward by serving some purpose higher than ourselves - a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light. It is expressed by all who know the irresistible force of a child’s hand, of a friend who stands by you and stays there - a volunteer’s generous gesture, an idea that is simply right.”

Mr. Bush created the Daily Point of Light Awards in 1989.

The forum will honor Mr. Bush’s legacy of civic engagement, build upon Mr. Obama’s United We Serve initiative and celebrate the contributions of more than 4,500 Daily Point of Light Award winners.

“People from all sectors are answering the presidential call to service to tackle and solve the nation’s toughest problems,” said Points of Light Chief Executive Officer Michelle Nunn, who also is co-founder of HandsOn. “Now we need to strengthen our civic infrastructure and ensure that we take advantage of the upsurge in volunteerism to support our overburdened social service agencies. University of Phoenix’s support is critical to this mission.”

The University of Phoenix will create virtual volunteer leader training classes, co-convene a self-organizing summit to empower those who stand ready to focus on specific community needs and assist with other key service initiatives. Participants can enroll in online courses for leadership development.

“The upside of this down economy is that people who have not been involved in service before are reaching out to make a difference in the community around them,” said Chas Edelstein, co-chief executive officer of Apollo Group Inc., parent company of the University of Phoenix. “At University of Phoenix, we recognize that we can develop the leadership skills of those interested in supporting causes that are the most relevant and needed.”

Rutgers debuts e-zine on community service

Civic Engagement. That is the title of the new online magazine launched by Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration. The inaugural cover story of the e-zine, which will feature people and projects deemed “exemplars” of public service, is President Obama as community organizer.

“The magazine seeks to deepen the discourse about, and underscore our shared commitment to, public service,” said the school’s dean, Marc Holzer. “Looking at service through a wider lens enables a broad array of stakeholders, regardless of sector, to be involved in the promotion of public service and the development of solutions to public problems,” he said.

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