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USA Freedom Corps Draws Volunteers

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2002 – Millions of people throughout the country are responding to the president's call for volunteers to join USA Freedom Corps.

America is full of compassionate people, "and the job of government is to serve as a catalyst to capture that compassion," President Bush said March 12 in Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

A new culture is evolving in America that will benefit future generations, he said. It involves acknowledging that there is something in life greater than yourself. It involves serving your country and your fellow man.

"I believe that in order to live in a free society, you need to give something back," Bush said. "In order to make a society vibrant, all of us owe something to America."

Bush first touted USA Freedom Corps Jan. 29 during his State of the Union address. He called on every American to commit at least two years -- 4,000 hours over the rest of their lifetime -- to the service of their neighbors and the nation. The president said the U.S. military is doing its part to fight terrorism, now it's time for the American public to do its share.

"America is no longer protected by our vast oceans," the president said at the Capitol Jan. 29. "We are protected only by vigorous action abroad and increased vigilance at home." Along with the government's efforts, the nation's security will "depend on the eyes and ears of alert citizens."

Since then, people seeking information on the volunteer program have hit the USA Freedom Corps Web site at www.usafreedomcorps.gov more than 6 million times. There, they learn the corps is focused on responding to crises at home, rebuilding communities and extending American compassion throughout the world.

USA Freedom Corps involves creating a Citizen Corps to engage citizens directly in improving homeland security. Since the State of the Union speech, the Citizen Corps Web site has been visited more than 1.2 million times. Nearly 19,000 people have volunteered to join the Citizen Corps.

Over the next two years, the president hopes to triple the number of Americans enrolled in Community Emergency Response Teams. His plan calls for doubling the number of Neighborhood Watch programs. The initiative also calls for expanding the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs to engage 200,000 new volunteers in community service.

Applications to the Americorps program are now up almost 50 percent, White House officials said, and traffic on the Americorps Web site is up 94 percent with more than 4 million hits. Interest in the Senior Corps programs is also on the rise. Site visits increased by 527 percent since Jan. 29 and calls to the toll-free number for the programs are up by 179 percent.

The president's initiative also calls for doubling the number of volunteers in the Peace Corps program over the next five years, with specific efforts aimed at rebuilding Afghanistan. White House officials said the number of people visiting the Peace Corps website has increased more than 86 percent since the president's speech. More than 14,600 people have requested Peace Corps applications, a 56 percent increase over last February.

For more information, visit the USA Freedom Corps Web site or call toll-free 1-877-USA-CORPS.

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