Just two years ago, the encore careers community helped to pass a law that represents huge bipartisan support for service by people of all ages: the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Serve America, as the law is commonly known, set a course for expanding the number of people across the country who tutor and mentor young children, provide academic enrichment after school, increase access to health care through community health centers, make it possible for older citizens to age in place and help families affected by natural disasters.
At the same time, the law placed a high value on making the face of national service more diverse – including a new emphasis on "encore service" for people over 55 who want to join AmeriCorps.
In communities across the country, national service – including AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve – helps schools, community health centers, food banks and countless other social service organizations get things done. What's more, the national and local organizations that manage national service programs provide pathways to new work – including encore careers – for thousands of citizens each year.
The incredible promise that Serve America offers for people of all ages is in jeopardy. H.R. 1, the continuing resolution currently being considered in Congress, proposes to eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service and all of its programs. The deep budget cuts proposed in H.R. 1 would decimate the work of many of Civic Ventures' partners in the Encore Careers campaign and in related coalitions – including Experience Corps, Citizen Schools and City Year.
During tough economic times, citizens and our leaders need to make tough choices. At the same time, we need to think about investments that will, as President Obama said in his recent State of the Union speech, "win the future." We cannot win that brighter future if we do not take care of our most vulnerable community members now and build pathways to work for the decades to come.
An AmeriCorps alum from Minnesota put it well in a recent op-ed: "To cut [AmeriCorps] would put as many as 75,000 Americans out of work, cut critical services for the most vulnerable, remove some of the best and most innovative teachers from schools and take away a much needed helping hand for the environment."
Civic Ventures agrees with civic leaders like John Bridgeland, Shirley Sagawa and Rosabeth Moss Kanter that national service is an essential investment in education, health and more. It's also a critical pathway for people 55-plus to learn new skills, build new networks and gain experience that can lead to sustainable work in the nonprofit sector.
Three national coalitions – Voices for National Service, America Forward and ServiceNation – have come together to organize action in every state on Friday, February 25. Go to www.saveservice.org to join a District Day visit. If you're on Facebook or Twitter, please share this information with friends and colleagues. You can also follow me on Twitter at @mehencore and other posts related to this issue through #saveservice and #districtday.
Please comment on this blog to let us know you were here and to share your own service story.