Managers Encouraged to Support Volunteer Efforts
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 23, 2004 A top Pentagon administrator is trying to help employees vie for the President's Volunteer Service Award by encouraging managers to be flexible with schedules so workers can participate in volunteer activities.
Pointing out that President Bush has challenged all Americans to perform volunteer service in their communities, Howard G. Becker, deputy director of Washington Headquarters Services, sent out a memorandum recently requesting support for "the president's call to service by supporting your employees' participation in volunteer activities."
Washington Headquarters Services provides a wide range of administrative and operational services to DoD components and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The memorandum was distributed throughout the Office of the Secretary of Defense and to various defense agencies, activities, administrations, services and offices that WHS services.
"Flexible work schedules and various leave flexibilities are available which enable our employees to participate in volunteer activities," Becker said in the memorandum.
He attached guidance for recipients of the memorandum, including use of leave and compensatory time so employees can perform community work. The guidance applies only to memorandum recipients, but the requirements for the President's Volunteer Service Award are the same for all federal employees.
There are three levels of the award for adults, ages 25 and older. Employees receive the gold award for 500 or more hours in any 12-month period, silver for 250 to 499 hours, and bronze for 100 to 249 hours.
Employees who are 25 and younger can receive a gold award for 250 or more hours, silver for 175 to 249 hours, or a bronze for 100 to 174 hours.
The President's Call to Service Award can be awarded to any employee, regardless of age, who has performed 4,000 or more hours of volunteer service over a lifetime.
Each medal is accompanied by a personalized certificate of achievement, a note of congratulations from the president and a letter from the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.
Employees must keep a record of their activities and hours of volunteer service. They can keep track of their hours in a journal at home or online through the USA Freedom Corps Record of Service. The record of service must accompany each nomination for the President's Volunteer Service Award.
"This isn't a push for more volunteers; this is a recognition program for recognizing volunteers," said Kimberly Brooks, assistant director of WHS' labor and management employee relations division. "It's to alert managers and employees to flexibilities that would allow them give more volunteer service.
"We're saying that we know this is a selfless sacrifice, and we want to be able to recognize our volunteers," Brooks noted.
"We're asking managers to exercise some of the flexibilities outlined in the policy, whether it be telework, leave approval, job sharing, or part-time work," Brooks said. "If an employee comes in and says, 'Hey, I'd like to volunteer,' there are some things we can do to allow them to volunteer during work hours. Or we can make it more convenient to volunteer."
For example, she said if an employee is teleworking, maybe he or she can quickly get to the volunteer site rather than having to travel a long distance to get there.
Brooks emphasized that DoD isn't approving the type of service employees volunteer to perform. She said they can do any type of volunteer service they choose. But, she said, to be eligible for the President's Volunteer Service Award, the type of service does matter. "Activities should be national community needs in the area of youth achievement, parks and open spaces, healthy communities, public safety and emergency response," Brooks noted.
Activities must be unpaid and may not include court-ordered community service. "This is strictly something that's done on their own time," she said. "It's not something we keep stats on. We just want managers and employees to know that there are some tools out there that will facilitate volunteering for our work force if they want to do that."
Managers and supervisors may encourage employees to become more involved in volunteer activities, but they must stop short of coercing them to do so, Brooks emphasized. "Then you would be dictating what they should do on their own time," Brooks noted. "We really shouldn't do that. If I want to leave work, go home and sit on my sofa vs. volunteering, that should be my choice."