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Feds Grant $10.3 Million for Homeland Security Volunteers

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2002 – The federal government is providing $10.3 million in grants to help nonprofit and public organizations involve citizen volunteers in homeland security.

"The homeland will be secure when our hometowns are secure," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said recently. "Citizens can and must play an active role in protecting their communities."

Many Americans have asked how they can help, he said. Volunteer programs across the country provide the answer.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush called upon all Americans to dedicate at least 4,000 hours in volunteer service to the nation over the course of their lives. Today, more than 2 million Americans engage each year in national service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America -- three programs brought under Bush's new umbrella USA Freedom Corps.

The president set up the Corporation for National and Community Service last November to be part of the Freedom Corps to recruit volunteers to support public safety, public health and disaster preparedness and relief. Ridge announced July 18 that the corporation would award $10.3 million in competitive grants to 43 nonprofit and public organizations in 26 states and the District of Columbia.

Of the total, $5 million will go to 17 special volunteer programs to support 27,800 volunteers; $4.3 million will go to 16 AmeriCorps organizations to support 7,024 volunteers and to pay living allowances to 356 full-time staff workers; and $1 million will go to 10 organizations to support 2,691 Senior Corps volunteers.

The overall goal is to recruit 37,000 AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and other volunteers nationwide to work in public safety, public health, emergency response and disaster preparedness, said Sandy Scott, CNCS press secretary.

"The grant money goes to nonprofit organizations and, in some cases, cities, to recruit, train, supervise and equip volunteers to help in homeland security," Scott said. The fiscal 2002 grant competition started last November, he said, and there's a request in the 2003 budget to continue and expand the homeland security grants.

In the public safety arena alone, the CNCS goal is to provide some 10,000 more Senior Corps and AmeriCorps volunteers in fiscal 2002 to support police and fire departments and other local agencies such as parks and recreation departments. Thousands of volunteers already work in public safety, CNCS officials said.

Volunteers provide vital public safety support by organizing neighborhood watch groups and providing victim assistance. They also do fingerprinting and other administrative tasks that can free officers for street work. In five years, AmeriCorps has organized 46,000 safety patrols. Last year, Senior Corps volunteers' 131,000 patrols freed up 540,000 hours of police time.

In public health, the CNCS has set out to provide more than 5,000 volunteers to support public health agencies in outreach and information dissemination and administrative support. Volunteers help immunize children and adults, serve as case managers, distribute health information and do health screening.

Last year, CNCS officials said, AmeriCorps volunteers distributed health information to 500,000 people and conducted health screenings for 181,000 people. Senior Corps volunteers helped immunize 270,000 children and adults.

In light of the terrorist threat, CNCS officials said, volunteers could now help educate people about chemical and biological attacks and how to respond. Volunteers could also work with local officials to develop public health strategies for responding to emergencies.

CNCS also aims to provide more than 5,000 volunteers to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other relief agencies in helping communities respond to disasters. Since Sept. 11, hundreds of volunteers have helped victims of the terrorist attacks by providing family services, organizing blood drives, raising funds and counseling victims' families.

For more information on homeland security volunteer initiatives, visit www.nationalservice.org/news/homeland.html.

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