Bush Pitches USA Freedom Corps Network
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 31, 2002 A new culture of community service has emerged in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, President Bush said July 30 at a White House ceremony marking the six-month anniversary of the USA Freedom Corps.
"Challenging times test the character of individuals and test the character of our nation," he said. Americans have responded to the tragedy with courage and compassion, with great resolve and determination, he added.
"Out of the evil done to America will come some good," he said. "I believe that from the bottom of my heart."
In his January State of the Union Address, Bush called on all Americans to commit 4,000 hours over their lifetimes to community service. He created the USA Freedom Corps to encourage people to join the AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Peace Corps and the new Citizen Corps.
The response to his call has been strong and can get stronger, Bush said. More than 66,000 people have requested Peace Corps applications since the president's address. Applications for AmeriCorps are up by nearly 90 percent. More than 45,000 people have signed up for the new Citizen Corps. Visits to the Senior Corps Web site are up by almost 60 percent.
Congress is providing $25 million this year to support Citizen Corps so Americans can train in emergency response to support first responders, Bush said. Some businesses are offering employees paid leave to perform community service, he noted.
"Volunteer-Match, a group that matches volunteers to charities on the USA Freedom Corps Web page, reports that referrals have increased by more than 70 percent over last year," he said.
The nation has made tremendous progress since January, the president said, but more needs to be done. He said a new public service advertising campaign would be based on a single, simple principle: "Everyone can do something."
"To support Americans who will respond to the call to service," he said, "we are launching the new USA Freedom Corps Volunteer Network, which is the most comprehensive volunteer clearinghouse ever."
The network will connect Americans with more than 50,000 organizations, including America's Promise, the National Mentoring Partnership, the Points of Light Foundation, the SERVEnet, the United Way and VolunteerMatch.
"If you want to serve in a soup kitchen or mentor a child in your local community," Bush said, "call up the Web page and you can find out where to go. If you want to take a full year and serve in the Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, this is where you can find opportunity to do so. If you to help people overseas through the Peace Corps or other organizations, USAFreedomCorps.gov will tell you what's available."
One main reason people say they don't volunteer is because no one has asked them to, the president said. "I'm asking."
Another reason people don't volunteer is they don't know where to start, he concluded. "This public service advertising campaign will ask Americans to serve and, through the USA Freedom Corps Web site, they have a place to start."