Alan Khazei, Others Weigh In on Future of Volunteering in America

April 27, 2010 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

In a recent USA Today article, several big names in national service sat down to discuss the future of volunteering. Among them? Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year and founder and CEO of Be The Change, Inc.; Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (Americorps), and Vicki Reggie Kennedy, lawyer and wife of the late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy.

Khazei, co-founder of City Year along with partner Michael Brown, referenced Americorps (founded by Bill Clinton in 1993) as being pivotal in the national service movement. In 2008, there were 93,000 applications for AmeriCorps. In 2009, that number leapt to 246,000. While this huge jump likely had much to do with the economic downturn, it also allowed Americorps to expand its name and presence within the community, and allow people to help others at a grassroots levels, ultimately serving as a viable alternative to a full-time job. But despite Americorps’ success, Khazei says, there is still much more to be done.

“There needs to be more private sector funding for service groups,” Khazei said. “And we need more advocates in D.C., getting Congress to say, “We’ll do what it takes to fund these opportunities.”

Patrick Corvington agrees with Khazei that we need to be innovative and use the government effectively in the goal of opening up more service opportunities and ultimately helping more people. Specifically, he says, private sector and faith based organizations will be key partners in this effort.

Finally, Vicki Reggie Kennedy, lawyer and wife of the late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, weighed in on the future of volunteering, primarily in relation to the Kennedy Act, named after her late husband.

“He believed that everyone — young and old, those from diverse backgrounds– should have an opportunity to serve and make the country stronger,” Kennedy said. “Also, not many people knew this, but he was embarrassed that the act was named for him. He would rather it have been named for all the people — all the service organizations — that came together to make it happen.”

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