State Service Commissions, National Service Respond to 3 Hurricanes

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Pictured Above: (1) The Comisión de Voluntariado y Servicio Comunitario de Puerto Rico and local AmeriCorps members from the Boys & Girls Club of Puerto Rico join the Center for Puerto Rico by helping hurricane-affected families.  (2) Volunteer Florida and its AmeriCorps FL program Peacemakers Family Center partners with Convoy of Hope and Miami Dolphins Special Teams to host a post-Hurricane Irma food giveaway in Miami serving over 6,000 individuals in need (3) Texas Conservation Corps, funded by the Texas commission, OneStar Foundation, tarps damaged houses in Southeast Texas following Hurricane Harvey.  (4) Another Texas Conservation Corps crew of AmeriCorps members deploys to Aransas Pass, TX to set up a Volunteer Reception Center, organize volunteers, help homeowners, and manage donations for the nearby Rockport and Corpus Christi response to Hurricane Harvey.

This past month, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have left a trail of destruction across the United States and its territories. State service commissions and their local AmeriCorps programs have sprung into action to help affected communities respond and recover. Working with their Governor’s and First Lady’s Offices, state emergency management agencies, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs), and the Corporation for National & Community Service’s Disaster Services Unit (CNCS DSU), these state service commissions are playing a critical role in coordinating national service and volunteer resources on the ground.

In response to Hurricane Harvey, the Texas commission OneStar Foundation has partnered with Governor Abbott’s office and national philanthropists Michael and Susan Dell to administer the new RebuildTX disaster fund, which has already raised more than $68 million to rebuild Texas communities. OneStar has also activated AmeriCorps Texas members across their portfolio virtually to answer more than 4,000 Crisis Cleanup hotline calls and deployed their local AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team (ADRT) Texas Conservation Corps to place dozens of well-trained “boots on the ground” in Houston and Southeast Texas. To learn more and donate, visit RebuildTX.org.

Volunteer Louisiana, also affected by Hurricane Harvey, established a virtual volunteer reception center at VolunteerLouisiana.gov, connecting thousands of citizens with volunteer opportunities in Louisiana and Texas. Volunteer Louisiana also connected citizens with donation opportunities and staffed phone lines for all volunteer and donation inquiries.

In response to Hurricane Irma, the Florida commission Volunteer Florida and its AmeriCorps State teams have provided disaster response to more than 8,600 residents, and locally-serving Senior Corps programs have been involved in emergency food, shelter, and volunteer operations. To learn more and donate, visit volunteerflorida.org/irma.

Most recently, Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria. Currently the island has limited access to water and cell phone service. They are expected to be without electricity for months. The commission, Comisión de Voluntariado y Servicio Comunitario de Puerto Rico, is working with the First Lady’s Office and its local AmeriCorps programs to provide services to citizens impacted by the storm. To learn more and donate, visit unidosporpuertorico.com.

In total, CNCS has already deployed more than 1,800 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members to areas impacted by these hurricanes.

Thank you to these hardworking state service commissions and national service members for their tireless dedication to help local communities recover as quickly as possible from this devastation!

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Mott Foundation Seeks to Expand Afterschool Opportunities through National Service, AmeriCorps — $250,000 Awarded to America’s Service Commissions for Multi-Year Initiative

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Emily Steinberg, (512) 961-1702, ESteinberg@statecommissions.org

Download this Press Release (PDF)

Washington, D.C. — States will be better poised to expand out-of-school time opportunities for youth at a statewide level, thanks to $250,000 in grant funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The two-year grant is being awarded to America’s Service Commissions (ASC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of the 52 Governor-appointed state service commissions across the United States and its territories that administer AmeriCorps*State grant and other volunteer-related funds.

From 2017-2019, ASC will work to identify ways in which the state service commission network can expand afterschool opportunities for youth through the inclusion of national service resources and opportunities, such as AmeriCorps.

ASC believes that state service commissions can play an important role in advancing afterschool programming efforts nationwide by providing human capital in the form of AmeriCorps members and community volunteers.

“The ultimate goal of the project,” said ASC CEO Kaira Esgate, “is not only to expand how many afterschool options are available, but to increase the quality of those opportunities — including getting the young people who participate engaged in more meaningful service and service-learning opportunities.”

Over the course of the two-year grant, ASC will work with the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks, state service commissions and other key stakeholders. Together, they will identify and replicate promising practices that expand the capacity of afterschool programs through the inclusion of national service members/resources, as well as ways in which high-quality community service elements can be incorporated into afterschool programs.

Through this effort, ASC believes that the project will lead to an increased mutual understanding between state service commissions and statewide afterschool networks to better leverage national service and AmeriCorps resources in support of high-quality afterschool opportunities nationwide.

For more information on this initiative, visit www.statecommissions.org/afterschool.

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About America’s Service Commissions
America’s Service Commissions (ASC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing and promoting the 52 state service commissions across the United States and territories with the mission to lead and elevate the state service network. State service commissions are governor-appointed public agencies or nonprofit organizations made up of more than 1,000 commissioners, private citizens leading the nation’s service movement and administering 80 percent of the federal AmeriCorps funds to address pressing community needs. Learn more at statecommissions.org.

About Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, established in 1926 in Flint, Michigan, by an automotive pioneer, is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society.  It supports nonprofit programs throughout the United States and, on a limited geographic basis, internationally.  Grantmaking is focused in four programs: Civil Society, Environment, Flint Area and Education. In addition to Flint, offices are located in metropolitan Detroit, Johannesburg and London.  With year-end assets of approximately $2.7 billion in 2016, the Foundation made 405 grants totaling more than $121 million.  For more information, visit www.mott.org.

The case for an American ‘year of service’

Originally posted by The Hill, shared with permission

The Hill photo

In times of national crisis, Americans have a history of coming together and giving back.

In the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt put 3 million unemployed men to work through the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the Cold War, President Kennedy told Americans to “ask not” what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country, setting the stage for the establishment of the Peace Corps. And after 9/11, millions of Americans stepped forward to serve their neighbors, as volunteering soared and national service opportunities grew to lend a hand both at home and abroad.

Today, our nation suffers from an erosion of trust in one another and our key civic institutions. We see the effects all around us — from the fraying of American communities to concerns about our national government. How do we rescue a sense of national purpose and restore confidence in our democracy and ourselves?

General Stanley McChrystal (Army-Ret.) has awakened the country to a big idea — to make a year of national service a rite of passage for 18-28 year olds. Large-scale national service would deepen Americans’ understanding of the responsibilities, not only the rights of citizenship, and cultivate the next generation of leaders, who can work together across social and political divides to produce results for our country.

McChrystal correctly argues that national service programs are deserving of Congress’ continued support. We agree and have joined his Service Year Alliance to make a year of service a common expectation and opportunity for young people. We believe states have a great role to play in expanding these opportunities. Here, we offer our “two state solution for national service” to inspire other states to join this cause.

In Virginia, under first lady Dorothy McAuliffe’s leadership, we’ve worked to promote national service, partnering to engage every college and university in the commonwealth to create service year opportunities for students to connect their courses of study with real-world experiences to improve their communities. In 2016, over 50 Virginia colleges and universities signed on to Virginia’s Compact on National Service, and together, they are integrating service year opportunities on their campuses to build up their students as engaged citizens.

In Virginia, our commitment to the enduring necessity of service runs deep. Home of our first president and citizen-soldier, George Washington, Virginia became the nation’s first state to be designated an “Employer of National Service.” We encourage AmeriCorps and Peace Corps alumni to put their experience to work on behalf of the commonwealth, recognizing that applicants emerging from a National Service Year create a skilled talent pool to fill jobs in our state government workforce. Since that designation in early 2015, we have tripled the number of national service alumni working for the Commonwealth.

In Iowa, led by Gov. Kim Reynolds, we launched the nation’s first Governor’s Council on National Service, signing a groundbreaking executive order charging state agencies to create service year opportunities to solve public challenges at low cost to taxpayers. We wanted to develop a strategy to expand national service opportunities and further our reach with existing state and private funding. We believe national service is a successful strategy to engage citizens and improve government effectiveness.

Since our council issued its report, we have worked with both sides of the aisle in the Iowa legislature to implement it. We passed legislation creating the Iowa Reading Corps, which has already documented success getting struggling readers back on track and reducing special education costs.

We created RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps, helping refugees integrate into Iowa communities. Working with the Iowa Economic Development Authority and private utility companies we expanded the Iowa Green Corps into new communities, helping keep energy costs lower and reducing peak consumption. This fall we will launch a new national service program aimed at curbing the growing opioid epidemic.

But our efforts are far from over. We’re working to make it easier to create more service year opportunities because we believe service should be part of what it means to be an American. For every service year opportunity we create, more than 30 other volunteers get involved, bringing people of all backgrounds together to turn us from a country divided to a country united.

By promoting national service as a pathway to success for young people, states reinvigorate our democracy and put more Americans back to work for the public good. Policies that put national service at the center of cultivating future leaders are critical to our nation’s success. States shouldn’t wait to encourage more people to enter a better relationship with their country at a time of national division and loss of public trust. Now more than ever is the time to embrace national service. States can lead the way.

Kim Reynolds is the governor of Iowa. Dorothy McAuliffe is the first lady of Virginia. They have worked closely with Service Year Alliance, chaired by General Stanley McChrystal, to show what states can do to advance national service. Read this piece in its original format in The Hill.

Announcing ASC’s 2016 Annual Report

 

Dear ASC Members, Colleagues, and Friends:

We are pleased to present you with a copy of our 2016 Annual Report, which you can view and download below. As we like to say, better late than never! We hope you’ll enjoy reading our past year-in-review, including interactive maps, links, photos and member resources.

2016 was a year of growth for ASC and the state service commissions we serve. The role of state commissions and ASC continues to be essential and fundamental to maintaining a healthy, vibrant, and effective national service network. Consider the following objectives that we collectively accomplished in 2016 to advance state service:

  • Completed an intensive strategic planning process to help re-align ASC’s mission, vision, strategies, activities, and objectives;
  • Ensured the inclusion of Commission Investment Fund (CIF) dollars in federal legislation as a tool to help commissions provide training and technical assistance (TTA) to AmeriCorps programs, particularly in rural and underserved regions of their states; 
  • Further developed the role of states in administering national service funding, increasing the amount of State/National AmeriCorps resources administered by state service commissions from 75% to 78%;
  • Planned and executed four successful regional training conferences in collaboration with partner host states (Massachusetts Service Alliance, Nevada Volunteers, Serve Alabama, and Serve Indiana);
  • Expanded ASC member services to include a variety of new offerings as part of our CIF and TTA services, including a commission evaluation capacity webinar series, a new AmeriCorps program start-up webinar series, and peer exchange coordination; and 
  • Grew ASC’s membership with a record 244 AmeriCorps state service partner programs.

Perhaps most importantly, ASC has continued to grow our advocacy efforts and provide stability to the state service network in times of significant budget and policy change. Governors and other key elected officials increasingly rely on our network to meet critical community needs.

We are excited for the future. In alignment with our new three-year strategic plan, ASC staff and Board members are already hard at work planning for the launch of our new Public Policy Coalition, updated branding, enhanced Commissioner outreach and engagement efforts, and other new membership services. We are also excited to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of ASC in September 2017 (save the date for the evening of September 12 and stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks)!

Thank you for your continued support and leadership. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with you to advance state service together this year and beyond. As always, we welcome your thoughts, ideas, questions, and partnership.

In service,
 
Kaira Esgate
Chief Executive Officer
America’s Service Commissions (ASC)

ASC Congratulates Board Chair Chester Spellman on Being Named New Director of AmeriCorps

Chester Spellman headshotWASHINGTON, DC – America’s Service Commissions (ASC), the national association of state service commissions which leads, supports and elevates the state service network, congratulates Mr. Chester Spellman on his recent appointment to the position of Director of AmeriCorps for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Mr. Spellman has served the national service community faithfully for the past five years as Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Florida, where he was appointed by Governor Rick Scott, as well as ASC’s Board Chair since 2016, where he was elected by his state service commission peers. During Chester’s time with ASC, we have been consistently impressed by Chester’s passion for public service, high standards of excellence and professionalism, and persistence in getting things done.

On behalf of ASC’s membership and the state service network nationwide, we congratulate Chester and applaud the White House’s selection for this crucial role. We are pleased to see the Administration continuing the tradition of appointing strong state service leaders to key leadership roles within CNCS. ASC believes that national service is stronger with the voices and experience of state and local leaders at the helm.

Chester will be moving from Tallahassee, Florida to Washington D.C. with his wife and three children and will start as Director of AmeriCorps at CNCS on August 28, 2017.

Click here to read CNCS’s announcement of Chester Spellman’s appointment.

FY 2018 Appropriations Update

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Compiled by Tom Branen, Chief Policy Officer, America’s Service Commissions (Sources: CQ, Politico)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to advance FY 2018 spending bills using preliminary spending allocations, confirming that both chambers intend to move forward on the spending process without a budget resolution adopted.

McConnell has made the point that sooner rather than later the Senate will have to come to a bipartisan agreement on what the topline spending figures are on the discretionary accounts this year.

Congress will need to come to an agreement on lifting discretionary spending levels outlined in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, which set spending levels considered untenable by Democrats and defense hawks alike.

In the meantime, McConnell hopes to move forward with some of the appropriation bills at last year’s levels, and then adjust them once a bipartisan agreement is brokered.

It appears that Senate appropriators will use fiscal 2017 as their guide as kind of a bookmark for markups recognizing that it will be adjusted by whatever topline agreement is set. This would be a positive development for FY 2018 funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), as key Congressional staff have indicated that increased spending caps would lessen the threat to any cuts to CNCS.

McConnell’s reference to the need for budget negotiations comes as a top House appropriator had little to report.

House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., suggested that House lawmakers may revert to spending levels in the BCA.  He said he hadn’t heard of any budget talks and at the end of the day it will wither be a year-long CR or a bipartisan negotiated omnibus, probably toward the end of the calendar year.

In the meantime, Cole said, as the committee writes bills, we can look at the BCA number, that is the law of the land. That discretionary level would be $3 billion less for nondefense discretionary than fiscal 2017 levels.

Debt Ceiling and Budget Deal

Senate Republicans are reportedly planning for a July vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Though the Treasury Department has said Congress can likely wait until September to avoid default, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would like to clear the Senate’s agenda as much as possible before the August recess. Members of both parties are interested in a broad spending deal that would avoid the budget cuts of sequestration.

There is also an emerging consensus among Hill leaders that the debt ceiling — currently $20 trillion — should be raised by an amount large enough to preclude another vote for several years making it easier for most rank-and-file lawmakers to just have one vote this Congress.

There may be some rank-and-file support among House Republicans to piece together a bipartisan budget deal to raise spending caps, as is being discussed in the Senate. More than 141 defense-minded House Republicans signed a letter in early May asking GOP leaders to raise the cap on the Pentagon budget.

Senate Democrats would not support a military boost without increases for domestic programs as well. Some GOP defense hawks may be willing to negotiate to do both. It’s unclear, however, whether they would want to link that to a debt ceiling vote.

If a budget deal is completed before the August recess that lifted the spending caps, appropriators would be able to move forward with markups at the actual allotments for the various subcommittees. Therefore, the House and Senate Labor HHS subcommittees that determine the funding levels for CNCS would be able to move forward at hopefully a higher spending cap and have the ability to fully fund CNCS and all its programs in FY 2018.

In the meantime, we need to continue outreach to members of Congress and educate them on the critical role and impact CNCS is having in our communities.

Click here to read ASC’s previous Statement on the President’s FY 2018 Budget.

GardenShare Fights Hunger in Rural North Country, NY with Community Volunteers

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This June, we’ll be featuring stories of national service programs operating in the Healthy Futures focus area. National service programs like AmeriCorps and the Volunteer Generation Fund can play a key role in promoting health within a state, from coordinating community gardening, delivering summer meals, to promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, and fitness. Learn more at nationalservice.gov/focus-areas/healthy-futures. #HealthyFutures

NEW YORK.  GardenShare is a locally-led nonprofit seeking to end hunger and strengthen food security in northern New York State, and is a recipient of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant. Gardenshare’s mission is to solve the problem of hunger in St. Lawrence County by strengthening the food system to benefit residents across the rural county.

At GardenShare-supported farmers markets, VGF-supported volunteers provide education and information to low-income consumers about the benefits of buying fresh fruits and vegetables.

In addition, GardenShare has announced its second year of offering “double dollars” at farmers markets to consumers who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Last year, this program increased the SNAP benefit use at farmers markets by 70%, and GardenShare plans to expand this program this year to reach a larger population. This allows low-income individuals and families to purchase twice as much produce if using their SNAP benefits, and is an important step towards their mission of making fresh, healthy food available to everyone.

GardenShare’s mission and activities exemplify the Healthy Futures focus area of national service. Last year, more than 500 volunteers contributed to capacity building efforts, and provided 8,000 meals for individuals and families in rural, upstate New York.

Learn more about GardenShare and sign up to volunteer at www.gardenshare.org.

Learn more about the NY Commission on National and Community Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program here.