ASC Statement on the Passing of Susan Ellis


As reported by her company, Susan J. Ellis, the Philadelphia-based volunteer management expert who traveled the globe to promote volunteerism and effective leadership of volunteers, has died. She passed away peacefully on February 24, 2019, after successfully living with cancer for over eight years. She was 70 years old. You can read her official obituary, which provides more details about her passing and her legacy.

“Susan’s work to professionalize volunteer engagement practices made a significant impact across the country,” said Kaira Esgate, CEO of America’s Service Commissions. “Thanks to Susan, volunteer engagement professionals are better positioned to advocate for the value of volunteers.”

“I personally benefited from Susan’s mentorship and support,” said Rachel Bruns, deputy director of ASC. “As a college student, I happened to present to my local DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers In Agencies) about a college-run volunteer program I was leading at the time, the same day Susan was giving a training to the group. Susan decided to pay for my DOVIA membership to encourage my continued involvement in the profession. I’m forever grateful to Susan for championing the volunteer engagement profession and my small role in it.”

Contributions are being accepted for the newly formed Susan J. Ellis Foundation, which will “provide grants or support programs that will expand volunteer administration and support education and research activities in volunteerism.”

Rest in peace, Susan.


President Signs 2019 Defense, Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Act (HR 6157)


Funding Package Includes Continued Investment in National Service and State Service Commissions, Increases for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps

View this Press Release as a PDF

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 28 – Today, the President has signed into law the $855.1 billion FY 2019 appropriations bill (HR 6157) funding the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The measure includes $178.1 billion for the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services & Related Agencies. The bill also includes a continuing resolution funding other parts of the government through December 7, 2018.

In a major win for service programs and state service commissions, HR 6157 also includes $1.083 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an increase of $19 million over FY 2018. Within this, the AmeriCorps State and National program will receive $425 million, a $13 million increase and Senior Corps will receive a $6 million increase over FY 2018.

Below is an unofficial funding chart developed by ASC demonstrating the FY19 enacted budget amounts:



In a September 28th White House statement President Trump declared, “Today, I signed into law important legislation to rebuild our military, protect our communities, and deliver a better future for all Americans… America is being respected again – and our people are being protected again. I am pleased to have signed this bill into law.”

“We are thrilled to see HR 6157 pass in regular order and with such strong bipartisan support under Chairman Shelby’s, Senator Leahy’s, Chairman Frelinghuysen’s, and Representative Lowey’s leadership on Appropriations,” said Tom Branen, Chief Policy Officer of America’s Service Commissions. “It will provide critical funding and increased investment in vital service programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Volunteer Generation Fund, and the network of governor-appointed state service commissions.”

America’s Service Commissions (ASC) and its public policy arm, the States for Service (S4S) coalition, will conduct a thank you campaign in the coming weeks to thank members of Congress who worked on and supported this bill, as well as the President and White House for signing it.

For more information on CNCS and its programs AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Volunteer Generation Fund, visit

For more information on HR 6157, visit

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


Emily Steinberg, Director of External Affairs

America’s Service Commissions

(202) 813-0807

Senate Passes Combined FY 2019 Labor-HHS/Defense Appropriations Legislation-Includes CNCS Funding

August 24, 2018 — Yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted in support of a $856.9 billion spending package (HR 6157) which combines the FY 2019 Defense and Labor-HHS-Education spending bills.

The measure contains $179.3 billion in base discretionary funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies, an increase of $2.2 billion above the FY 2018 level. This bill includes funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Please Note: The bill text and report language have yet to be released, but we do not anticipate any significant changes for CNCS from the previously passed Senate Appropriations Committee recommendations in June. We will send an update with the bill text and funding breakdown once they have been released.

Next Steps

The House has passed its version of the Defense bill but has yet to take up the Labor-H measure approved last month by the House Appropriations Committee. How Congress will enact final versions of one or both of the bills has yet to be determined.

The House is expected to take up the Labor H spending measure upon their return from the August recess. Once passed in the House, the respective spending bills would be reconciled in conference committee as there is $2 billion less in the House  version of the Labor H bill. Once negotiations are completed, a final bill would be sent back to both chambers for a final vote and then to the President’s desk for signature.

There is a chance that the FY 2019 Labor H appropriations legislation could be on track to be passed ahead of the end of this fiscal year, September 30th. That would be a significant accomplishment.

We will keep you updated as this process moves forward.
–Tom Branen, Chief Policy Officer, ASC/S4S


House Appropriations Committee Recommends $1.06 Billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service for FY 2019


July 12, 2018 — After an epic and somewhat contentious 13 hour session, the House Appropriations Committee late Wednesday evening approved, 30-22, the $177.1 billion FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor H) appropriations bill. This bill provides funding for Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and its programs.

I am pleased to inform you that the bill recommends funding CNCS at the FY 2018 enacted level of  $1,064 Billion for FY 2019. You can view the text of the bill here and the committee’s press release here. CNCS Portion of Bill Text is attached:

Highlights include:

$412 Million  – AmeriCorps State National

$17.538 Million – State Commission Grants

$5.4 Million – Volunteer Generation Fund

$92.4 Million – AmeriCorps VISTA

$202 Million – Senior Corps

$32 million – NCCC

$206.8 Million – Trust

$83.7 Million – CNCS Salaries and Expenses

This is very big news and is an incredibly positive development for state commissions and the entire service sector. Keep in mind that this funding recommendation is provided despite the Trump administration’s recommendation to eliminate CNCS in FY 2019 and the committee was working with the same amount of overall funding as last year and had to make offsets to increase funding for other priorities, such as NIH.

The House Appropriations Committee’s funding recommendation sends a strong message about the critical work that our sector provides and should inspire and motivate you to continue to engage and educate your members of Congress about this important work.

A big thank you to the members of the House Appropriations Committee for all their leadership and support and to our entire state commission and States for Service network and our partners at Voices for National Service and Service Year Alliance for all of the collective, continued advocacy and outreach on behalf of service.

This strong funding mark coupled with the AmeriCorps increase in the Senate mark puts CNCS funding in a strong position as the FY 2019 appropriations  process moves forward.

Next Steps

It’s unclear when and whether House leaders will bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Last year, the version that advanced from committee passed on the House floor when packaged with several other appropriations measures.

Senate appropriators want to combine their Labor H bill with the Defense spending bill. The House already passed its Defense appropriations bill. However, if the Senate passes a combined bill and sends it to the House, the House might skip a floor vote on the Labor-H bill and head straight to conference where House and Senate appropriations negotiators will work out the differences in the respective bills. Once the bills are negotiated and finalized they would go back to both chambers’ floors for a  final vote. Then the President would need to sign. The new fiscal year begins on October 1, so a lot of work will need to be done in a short span of time to complete this process in time. If not completed, there will most likely be a Continuing Resolution that provides short term funding to allow Congress to complete action on appropriations bills.

We still have a way to go in this process and we will continue to update you, but for now, this a very important development for service.

Tom Branen
Chief Policy Officer
America’s Service Commissions

Senate Appropriators Approve $3 Million Increase for AmeriCorps, Level Funding of Other CNCS Programs for FY 2019


On Thursday, June 28th, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor H) appropriations bill. The committee-approved funding measure contains $179.3 billion, an increase of $2.2 billion above the FY 2018 level, in base discretionary funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies.

This bill includes $1.1 billion in funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 30-1. The bill now goes to the full Senate. The bill’s passage marks the earliest the committee has completed consideration of its appropriation bills since 1988.

We at America’s Service Commissions (ASC) and the States for Service (S4S) Coalition are thrilled that this bill expands AmeriCorps funding by an additional $3 million, the highest funding amount in its history, and fully funds the rest of CNCS programs at the FY 2018 level. There was a small decrease in funding for the Trust, although the Committee recommendation reflects the estimated funding needed for the Trust. It maintains strong funding amounts for state commissions in both the State Commission Grant and the Commission Investment Fund.

Highlights for CNCS include:
$415 Million  – AmeriCorps State National (represents $3 million increase – highest level in history)
$17.538 Million – State Commission Grants (level funding from FY18)
$8.5 Million – T/TA to State Commissions (Congress directed per legislation language; level funding from FY18)
$5.4 Million – Volunteer Generation Fund (level funding from FY18)
$92.4 Million – AmeriCorps VISTA (level funding from FY18)
$32 Million – NCCC (level funding from FY18)
$202 Million – Senior Corps (level funding from FY18)
$83 Million – CNCS Salaries and Expenses (level funding from FY18)

Additionally, the Senate included our requested language for CNCS to fully implement and expand Fixed Amount Grants which will reduce unnecessary administrative burdens on current and potential AmeriCorps programs.

On June 15th, on the other side of the Capitol building, the House Appropriations subcommittee advanced its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies legislation. The total allocation the House is providing for this bill did not change from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2019 at $177.1 billion. It recommends funding for CNCS at FY 2018 levels. The full appropriations committee is scheduled to meet sometime after the 4th of July recess.

Both the Senate and House Labor HHS spending bills are expected to be taken up on the floor of both chambers, where if and when they pass, they would move to a conference committee for final deliberation.

Appropriators in both chambers hope to have this work concluded before the end of the fiscal year that ends on September 30, 2018. This would certainly be an achievement, as appropriations bills over the many cycles have not been completed until after a Continuing Resolution was required to keep government open after the end of the fiscal year.

A Senate vote on that fiscal 2019 package is likely to take place in the next few weeks. It would include the Defense, and Labor H, spending bills. In fact, some are speculating that Senate action could happen before senators leave town Aug. 6 for a week long break.

That bill which combines both Defense and Labor H spending for FY 2019 would make up two-thirds of all discretionary funding, most of which goes toward the Pentagon. That would make the package difficult for President Donald Trump to veto, even though the domestic piece of it, which includes health and education programs, would vastly exceed his own budget request.

Appropriators believe that this could be a win-win for Congress and the White House. Republicans could boast that the Department of Defense is safe from another Continuing Resolution and Democrats would have secured on-time funding for key domestic programs. Having this done before the end of the fiscal year is a rarity for the government in recent years also could avoid a knockdown funding fight just weeks ahead of the midterm elections.

This would mean we could have CNCS and national service programs fully funded by the beginning of October, despite the Administration’s efforts to eliminate it.

We will continue to update our members as this process continues to unfold.

Tom Branen
Chief Policy Officer
America’s Service Commissions

It Takes A Village: Iowa Pilots New Volunteer Center Model in Marion County to Take On Public Health

This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month and Week (April 15-21, 2018), we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are harnessing the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through the federal Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program. Learn more at

Today’s spotlight is on Volunteer Iowa, the Iowa commission on service and volunteerism.

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In Iowa, the Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program is leveraged by Volunteer Iowa as the state service commission to help develop and enhance the state’s volunteer infrastructure through in-depth volunteer management training and consulting with the Service Enterprise Initiative as well as providing sub-grants to local Volunteer Centers. In 2018, Volunteer Iowa awarded $107,000 in federal VGF grant funds from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to local organizations selected through a statewide competitive process, which is matched by $172,899 in non-federal dollars.

If you aren’t already familiar, Volunteer Centers provide critical services to their communities, including connecting people with opportunities to volunteer and serve, increasing capacity for organizations to engage volunteers in meaningful service, promoting volunteering in the community, and being the voice to suggest volunteerism as a solution to community problems and helping to develop such programs. Volunteer Centers are commonly their own nonprofit organizations, and are sometimes housed within a local United Way or city government.

This year, with Volunteer Generation Fund grant support, Volunteer Iowa is investing in a new Volunteer Center approach being piloted in Marion County by VGF sub-grantee, Marion County Public Health (MCPHD), in Knoxville, Iowa.

The core mission of MCPHD is to prevent disease through health promotion and protection using assessment, policy development, and assurance. Establishment of a new volunteer center aligns with the mission of MCPHD in that, in order to achieve the goal of a healthy population and sustain a healthy community, the mantra of “it takes a village” certainly rings true.

Volunteerism is a key component in the development of the fabric of a community and establishing a culture of health. No one entity in a community can provide all services or financially sustain all needs, volunteers are essential human capital to bolster the success of programming, create sustainability and influence health outcomes for the community.

Individuals who volunteer live significantly longer, healthier and better lives, according to a study in 2007 by the Corporation for National and Community Service. State volunteer rates are strongly connected with the physical health of the states’ population. A study of the Americans’ Changing Lives survey found a threshold of volunteering was necessary for health benefits. Those individuals who volunteered at least 40 hours per year, as well as those who volunteered with just one organization, or group, had the lowest risk of mortality (Musick et al., 1999).

It is well known that one’s environment — where they live, work and play — may have a marked impact on the health of an individual, family and community. In recent years it has become incumbent upon local Public Health agencies to reach further beyond direct programming to engage community partners in development of systemic efforts to move forward public health practices. The realm of Public Health has a long and in general unsung history of interventions in our society. Much like the efforts of public health, the hard work, dedication and resulting public good of volunteers often goes overlooked and unnamed. However, the community fabric has the ability to be forever changed by both.

For Public Health, practices and interventions must be championed throughout the community at the personal, family and community level to achieve real, impactful life changes. Community champions must help carry forth the public health message and practices in a manner that can be sustained beyond public health programming — and volunteers are a key component of this equation as they champion the greater good and experience a sense of personal purpose and satisfaction in their own service.

During the first year of this pilot the Volunteer Center is focusing efforts on the county seat of Knoxville, Iowa. Knoxville has an estimated population of 7,244. According to US Census data it is projected that 7.2% of the population in Knoxville is under the age of 5 and 24.7% is under the age of 18. Census data also indicate that 16.9% of the population lives in poverty. A 2015 Kids Count Data report produced by the Child and Family Policy Center reveals that the number of children in Marion County Iowa living in poverty has increased by 27.9% during the timeframe of 2000 to 2015. According to the Iowa Department of Education, the free and reduced lunch rate in the Knoxville Community School district for the 2016-2017 school year was 43.3%. Knoxville could be described as a lower income, working class community.

In recent years, Knoxville has entered into a season of renewal and transformation. Community leaders have identified a solid vision for the future and have developed strategic plans creating a call to action that has reverberated throughout the community. Key stakeholders, employers and the average citizen have become impassioned to see projects through with an end goal of a happy, healthy, safe and thriving community. Residents are developing a service-oriented culture and sense of community that will serve as the underpinnings of sustaining a vibrant and revitalized city. Since receiving a Volunteer Generation Fund subgrant from Volunteer Iowa, the community’s key revitalization projects have gained momentum and volunteers are leading the way. Some of these key projects include a “Spring Into Parks” Volunteer Clean Up Day, the placement of volunteers at local English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to run a daycare center, the development of a suicide prevention coalition, opening a school food bank, and the launch of a new community walkability study. Great things are happening in the community that will not simply be one time volunteer days, but long-reaching public health changes to the community’s population that will enrich its residents’ well-being and fellowship while also establishing a culture of service.

By investing in Volunteer Centers through the Volunteer Generation Fund, Volunteer Iowa is supporting hyper-local, community-driven volunteerism that meets local needs and builds social capital. Through the network of Volunteer Centers, Volunteer Iowa is partnering to provide capacity building services and training to nonprofits and create a culture of service. The VGF grant allows Volunteer Iowa to support innovative approaches, including promoting volunteerism locally as a public health initiative, that will improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement.

Learn more about Iowa’s VGF intiative and subgrantees. Learn more about the Marion County Health Department at

Volunteer Iowa (Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service) and its partner agencies work with organizations and individuals on three main fronts. The first is to help agencies develop quality programs that use service as a strategy to fulfill their missions and address Iowa’s greatest areas of need. The second is to help engage Iowans in their communities by promoting service and expanding the volunteer base. Finally, the third area of work is to connect individuals with appropriate service opportunities by building the volunteer infrastructure. More information is available at

In the Heart of Communities: Florida’s Volunteer Generation Fund Grants Tackle Workforce Development, Disaster Response, and the Opioid Crisis with Skill-Based Volunteers

This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month and Week (April 15-21, 2018), we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are harnessing the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through the federal Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program. Learn more at

Today’s spotlight is on Volunteer Florida, the Florida state service commission.

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Good morning from sunny Florida! I’m Audrey Kidwell, the Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) Program Manager at Volunteer Florida. We have focused specifically on increasing skills based volunteers for the past 7 years! We are proud to support 22 organizations each year throughout the state of Florida. Our VGF program uses evidence-based principles of service and the concept of volunteering as a pathway to work.

Skills-based volunteering builds capacity for nonprofits and service organizations by leveraging the experience, talents and education of volunteers such as accountants, attorneys, and IT professionals and matches them with the needs of nonprofits. These funds helps organizations to more effectively recruit, manage, and retain skills-based volunteers to serve in high value volunteer assignments.

Our 22 sub-grantees receive comprehensive training on volunteer management, program and financial requirements, funding for program enhancements, ongoing technical assistance, and coaching to establish or strengthen their skills-based volunteer program.

In 2017, Volunteer Florida invested $286,000 in grants for 22 Florida nonprofits. These 22 Volunteer Generation Fund sub-grantees recruited 15,470 skills based volunteers who served 196,438 hours – a value of over $4.7 million.

Volunteer Florida is especially proud that to support organizations that opt into our priority areas of Disaster Services and Opioid Crisis.

Disaster Services organization utilize skills-based volunteers to improve community resiliency through disaster preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation. Those organizations include Feeding America Tampa Bay and the Monticello Opera House Inc.

Opioid Crisis organizations utilize skills-based volunteers in reducing and/or preventing prescription drug and opioid abuse. Those organizations are Caridad Center Inc., Gulf Coast Jewish Family And Community Services Inc., Parker Street Ministries, and Speak Up For Kids of Palm Beach County Inc.

Our VGF grantees are in the heart of communities across the state, putting volunteers to work to provide STEM education opportunities, help job-seekers find employment, and teach financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship skills to Floridians.
Learning for Success, Inc. manages the KAPOW program throughout South Florida. KAPOW is a national network of business and elementary school partnerships which introduces students to career awareness through professionally designed lessons taught by business volunteers in the classroom and visits to work sites.

KAPOW volunteers served 5,924 students in 71 schools throughout Miami-Dade and Broward County. Volunteers are professionals from the local community, assigned to a school to teach a series of 7 one hour lessons, based on career awareness and work place skills. Volunteers empower students, expose them to various career options, and help to motivate students who are lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem.

United Way of the Florida Keys leads a community-wide partnership with a diverse set of established volunteer-selected nonprofit agencies in Monroe County, Florida.

United Way of the Florida Keys completed 100 tax returns in the community, obtaining low-income clients over $40,000 in returns. Over 115 skills based volunteers were engaged in Hurricane Irma response. Volunteers provided referrals, assistance with debris clean up, and food distribution at different locations throughout the Keys, but primarily in Big Pine Key where residents were hardest hit.

This group of diverse nonprofits, organizations, and of course skill-based volunteers are helping to make Florida a safer, stronger community for all!

Audrey Kidwell is the Volunteer Generation Fund Program Manager at Volunteer Florida. She is a Hoosier turned Floridian, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, an AmeriCorps Alum, and a lover of volunteerism and all things good.

Learn more about Florida’s VGF intiative and its VGF subgrantees.



The Sun Shines Brightly on Volunteerism in Kentucky

This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month and Week (April 15-21, 2018), we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are harnessing the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through the federal Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program. Learn more at

Today’s spotlight is on the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service.

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Greetings from Kentucky! I’m Melissa Benton, the Volunteer Generation Fund Manager at the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service.

It is a beautiful April morning, the sun is raising and there is a scent of bourbon mash in the air. Walking into work this morning, I think of all the opportunities and possibilities that lay ahead – short and long-term goals, forging and fostering partnerships, civic engagement, promoting volunteerism in both urban and rural communities, building the capacity of organizations, data collection, on and on and on.

There is an excitement in the air, too. The Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service (KCCVS) recently received a Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). VGF provides much needed resources to expand our mission, to promote volunteerism to solve problems and to meet the various needs in our communities. (Yes, it is a long name. We will be announcing an official name change very soon.)

We are collaborating with Points of Light Foundation and working toward our certification as a Service Enterprise Initiative Hub. This collaboration provides additional resources we are able to share with organizations including the Volunteer Management Training Series curriculum. Our VGF goals include networking with community organizations to provide resources to strengthen their capacity with volunteer management and to build a link with agencies who need volunteers with individuals or groups who are looking to volunteer.

We have also collaborated with Kentucky Campus Compact (KCC) to pilot an Alternative Service Breaks program. KCC is engaging Kentucky college students in meaningful community service projects in Kentucky. The projects include activities with community members and intergenerational service projects. Three projects have been completed with more are on the horizon:

Northern Kentucky University, Student Engagement: 30 college students traveled to Auixer, Kentucky (Floyd County) March 4 – March 6, 2018.  They served in partnership with Hand in Hand Ministries  to engage 50 community members in a series of service activities and reflection.  Service projects included home repairs, maintenance, or building ramps for the elderly in Floyd County.  Students conducted service activities for 8 hours each day, and participate in reflection conversations in the evening.  In preparation for the experience, the students participated in six servant leadership presentations.  They are also required to keep a journal throughout the experience. Hand in Hand provides the lodging, and Northern Kentucky University coordinated the travel, supplies, and food expenses.

Kentucky State University & Wesley Foundation: 20 HBCU college students engaged older adult residents in Grayson County, Kentucky in a series of service projects and reflection March 12 – March 16, 2018.  The goal was to facilitate inter-generational, interracial small groups of volunteers to do a variety of community clean up and community repair service activities.

Bellarmine University, Service & Leadership: 8 students traveled to David, KY (Floyd County) and conduct service activities in partnership with The David School.  They engaged community members during the trip.  Participants spent the mornings in the classroom alongside David School students, and afternoons doing repair and clean-up that the small school staff otherwise would not be able to accomplish. Each evening, participants visited with a local nursing home for reflection, visiting, and games.

In recognition and in honor of National Volunteer Week, we want to celebrate the accomplishments of the small rural communities not only in Kentucky but also across our country. Volunteers steeping up, identifying available resources, collaborating with local, state and federal organizations and persevering to meet the needs of their communities – their hometown, the place where they call home and want to live and to raise their families.

One such rural community is Booneville, in Owsley County, Kentucky. Booneville is about a 2-hour drive from Frankfort, our state capital. My favorite part of the ride is getting off I-64 and traveling on the “back roads”. My first trip to Booneville was several years ago to meet with Partnership Housing, a relatively new organization, that had started from the findings of the Owsley County Action Team.

Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in the nation with one of the lowest median household income in the country. The median household income in $23,115. The majority of the housing stock is old and there are still homes that lack plumbing.
My first meeting with Partnership Housing was to discuss with them how to keep the doors open and to develop a plan for their success to meet the housing needs of their community. This meeting was primarily with their volunteer board who knew and understood what was on the line for their community. We discussed strategies, goals, and this proud AmeriCorps Alum, introduced them to AmeriCorps.

Cassie Hudson, executive director of Partnership Housing, stated that for almost seventy years no one was building housing in Owsley County. Under Cassie’s leadership and with Rachel Marshall, an AmeriCorps member, a positive change began to happen in Owsley County. Since 2012, Partnership Housing has built 39 homes, completed both minor and major rehabilitation projects on 200 units, and recently completed 6 rental units.

“National service and AmeriCorps has been crucial to Partnership Housing. We could not be where we are today in Owsley County without national service. We cannot do this alone. Partnership Housing was on the verge of closing down. We had bills to pay but no assets to pay them. AmeriCorps provided us a Member to do case management, conduct housing visits and identify individual needs. AmeriCorps provided us support to make our dreams and goals a reality. AmeriCorps program provided an opportunity for the member to see first-hand what was happening in the community – what is behind those closed doors. Roofs are leaking into their light fixtures; folks are wrapped in blankets because they have no heat. AmeriCorps provided us the opportunity to build up our organization and serve our community.”

Now let me introduce you to Charles E. Long, Mayor of Booneville and Cale Turner, Judge Executive of Owsley County. Mayor Long is the oldest and longest serving Mayor in the nation. I recently visited with Mayor Long to discuss volunteerism. He was very candid with me on the needs of Booneville. A World War II veteran, Mayor Long shared with me how he brought water and sewage to Booneville. Mayor Long laughed as he stated he “often wonders what did I get myself in to.” At 99 years old, he says, “I will serve as long as I am needed and can be of service to my community.”

Presenting Mayor Long with a Governor’s Citation for his service (Left to Right: Melissa Benton (Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service), Cassie Hudson (Executive Director, Partnership Housing), Rachael Marshall (AmeriCorps Alum, Housing Coordinator and Counselor), Amber Henrion (AmeriCorps Member), and Mayor Charles E. Long (front).
Presenting Mayor Long with a Governor’s Citation for his service. Left to Right: Melissa Benton (Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service), Cassie Hudson (Executive Director, Partnership Housing), Rachael Marshall (AmeriCorps Alum, Housing Coordinator and Counselor), Amber Henrion (AmeriCorps Member), and Mayor Charles E. Long (front).

Judge Turner was one of the many volunteers I meet to discuss the housing needs of their community. He has provided steadfast leadership to his community through his volunteerism and service. Judge Turners stated that, “In one of the most poverty ridden counties in the United States, you scrape together just enough money to get an organization incorporated. Without AmeriCorps, we would have never had the resources to get Partnership Housing off the ground. Neither county nor city government had to the money to support it. The rewards to this community with AmeriCorps have been immense. I do not think Partnership Housing would exist today if it had not been for AmeriCorps National Service. The collaboration with Partnership Housing and AmeriCorps has been one of the best things that has happened to Owsley County in my lifetime. We are changing lives every day. I hate to think what would have happened in this community without them.”

In my personal reflections, I often think about my own journey since my AmeriCorps service. I recall the AmeriCorps pledge, often honing in on “faced with adversity, I will persevere.” I think about Owsley County and the stigma they have carried for so many years. I have witnessed first-hand their perseverance as a community to solve their problems through volunteerism and service.

Today and this week, let us celebrate all the citizen volunteers who raise up to serve their communities, who identify community needs and work and serve together to strengthen our communities. There will be apathy but we must raise above it and take action. We will have conflict but we must celebrate common ground to move forward. And we must commit to serving our communities.

Happy National Volunteer Week, and let’s continue to shine the light on our citizen volunteers!

Melissa Benton is the Volunteer Generation Fund Manager at the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service. Created in 1994, the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service (KCCVS) manages Kentucky’s AmeriCorps national service programs. The commission is a statewide, bipartisan group of up to 25 members, appointed by the governor, with diverse service and volunteerism backgrounds. The KCCVS serves as a conduit for federal funds that support AmeriCorps programs in the commonwealth, encourage and recognize volunteerism and assist in service program development. KCCVS funding is provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Kentucky General Assembly. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is the parent agency for the commission, providing administrative support and oversight.

To learn more about Kentucky’s Volunteer Generation Fund activities, click here.


Statement on the Loss of Jennifer Riordan

Jennifer Riordan_NM
Jennifer Riordan (right) receiving recognition from former New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions Deputy Secretary Joy Forehand at the conclusion of Jennifer’s service as our Commission Chair in June, 2017.

America’s Service Commissions joins the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism in extending our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jennifer Riordan, who passed away in a tragic accident on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 on April 17, 2018.

Jennifer Riordan was a champion for national and community service and a Commissioner of the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism. As Chair, Ms. Riordan stewarded the Commission through a number of administration changes and served as a trusted friend and mentor to both Commissioners and Commission staff.

Despite a highly demanding professional and personal schedule, Ms. Riordan made the effort to fully understand the streams of service and was a tireless and highly effective advocate in celebrating the accomplishments of AmeriCorps programs throughout New Mexico.

At the time of her tragic passing, Jennifer was planning to join the New Mexico Commission’s staff for the 2018 Points of Lights conference in Atlanta, as seeking the resources and allies to increase service, volunteerism and community engagement — especially among young people — were what motivated Jennifer through all aspects of her life.

The New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism deeply mourns her loss, and will find inspiration and comfort in her extraordinary legacy.

On behalf of the 52 state service commissions across the country, our hearts go out to Jennifer Riordan’s family, friends, colleagues and community.

Small-But-Mighty! Kansas Launches Three-Pronged Approach to Volunteer Generation Fund Initiative

This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month and Week (April 15-21, 2018), we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are harnessing the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through the federal Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program. Learn more at

Today’s spotlight is on the Kansas Volunteer Commission (KVC).

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Hello, everyone! My name is Jamie Crispin and I am the Outreach & Engagement Specialist at the Kansas Volunteer Commission (KVC) located in Topeka. My commission prides itself on being a small-but-mighty staff. I am sure many of you can relate. Our goals are all the same, right? We strive to increase volunteerism. We want to recruit the best organizations for the AmeriCorps State program. We aim to provide responsive and current training to our community partners. All the while, hoping we go another year without an IPERA audit. Eek, why did I say it out loud?

Sometimes, as a small-but-mighty commission, it seems there is always MORE we can do. We have big dreams, but a skeleton crew. We have big hearts, but restricted funds. So, what to do? Our solution! To write a competitive Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) proposal and pray to the grant gods for their favor.

As the state service commission, we know the data shows more Kansans are volunteering. Our schools encourage a life of civic engagement, our businesses want to give back, and families are seeking volunteer opportunities together. Our state has a strong volunteering spirit and at the commission level we wanted to foster that spirit.
On the flip side, our nonprofits and especially volunteer centers are attempting to meet the increased demand. Their response is to foster new partnerships and expand their coverage areas to engage more volunteers. Of course, many of them are doing this with no change to their budget or staffing structure. The small-but-mighty staff syndrome seems to be an epidemic. As a result, we have been looking for a solution to change their flat lined funding.

To find the pulse of the state’s needs, we surveyed volunteer managers and volunteer center staff about the resources they were lacking. We collaborated closer with our hosting organization, Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), knowing civic engagement was part of their strategic plan. We reviewed our State Service Plan to see how our priorities intersected with the above. After lots of brainstorming, we created three initiatives to generate more Kansas volunteers: 1) build capacity in volunteer connector organizations, 2) become a Service Enterprise Hub and 3) encourage school-based volunteering. We felt strongly that these initiatives would help the volunteer programs, but moreover, support the staff engaging those volunteers, too.

Well, the grant gods did look upon us with favor. On one fine day last year, KVC became one of 15 state service commissions to receive the VGF funding. For once, our small-but-mighty staff felt accomplished, progressive, and in-the-game! After high-fives and cheers all around, it was time to get down to business.

Fast forward to now, the KVC has awarded nearly $80,000 to four volunteer connector agencies in Kansas. For all four organizations, this money means hiring additional staff to do more good. In their words, this funding has filled a much needed gap and lifted some weight from their shoulders. To us, we know the volunteer connector agencies will have greatest reach in our state’s volunteerism. Recently, we conducted a day-long training with our subgrantees. Each presented on their organizations and VGF goals. We were overwhelmed by their passion, persistence, and commitment to their counties. We can’t say it loud enough. Great things are happening in Kansas, just watch!

Kansas is proud to be ranked #7 in volunteering among states according to the Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. But, as a state service commission, we have our hearts set on being in the top five. This change cannot happen without preparing our voluntary organizations for the challenge. Earlier this year, KVC was accepted by Points of Light to become the first Service Enterprise Hub in Kansas. The Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI) is a national change management program which helps organizations better meet their missions through the power of volunteers. Being an SEI Hub, means facilitating the evidence-based certification process for interested organizations. KVC will train, coach, and support organizations who want to adjust their internal culture to effectively engage volunteers. KVC is happy to report we will be recruiting our first EVER SEI cohort this year. Woot woot!

If you are wondering about the SEI impact, let me tell you this certification will change the volunteer landscape in Kansas. For those that need evidence, according to the Points of Light website, “Research shows that nonprofits that operate as Service Enterprises are equally as effective as their peers but at almost half the median budget, and are significantly more adaptable, sustainable and capable of going to scale.” SEI certified organizations will connect more volunteers to community problems. Organizations, nonprofits, schools, mentoring organizations will reimagine service and what it looks like for their mission. That means a better return on volunteer investment, and hopefully, getting Kansas in the top five states for volunteering. Fingers crossed!
We have made great progress on our VGF initiatives, but soon to emerge will be the promotion of school-based volunteering. KVC staff will communicate and train Kansas schools on how using community volunteers will meet their unique needs. KVC is certain our expertise and resources will give schools the nudge they need in the right direction to use volunteers both inside and outside the classrooms. Stay tuned for our progress.
In all, we would not have the impact or technical knowledge to support the Kansas communities without this VGF funding. This grant means so much to our commission, but it means so much more to the agencies, volunteers, and communities who will benefit from this grant award.

So, during this National Volunteer Week, I find myself reflecting on our small-but-mighty staff and how our vision has always been mightier than us. For that, we don’t apologize. We see overestimating ourselves as one of our strengths. As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There is no place like home.” (And you thought we would finish this blog without a Wizard of Oz reference!) To us, there is no better way to tackle critical needs, but in local communities through local change makers.

As state commissions, we have the benefit of being part of a national network, but being rooted in our state networks. To all of those large-but-mighty and especially to the small-but-mighty staff, we say this, “dream big.”

May your vision always be bigger than your staff! Happy National Volunteer Week!

KVC staff, Jamie Crispin and Destinee Parker, traveled to Atlanta to complete the Service Enterprise Hub Train-the-Trainer event at Points of Light office.
sei 3
The KVC staff bonded with the Kentucky commission staff members, Melissa Benton and Shannon Ramsey, at the Service Enterprise Hub training. Did you know that commissions that begin with the letter “K” have the most fun?!

Jamie Crispin is passionate about developing volunteer engagement leaders. As an AmeriCorps Alum and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer she understands the impact of volunteerism in our communities and on our personal development. Mrs. Crispin has over ten years’ experience engaging volunteers and recently earned her Certification in Volunteer Administration (CVA). Currently, she is the Outreach and Engagement Specialist at the Kansas Volunteer Commission. In her spare time, she chases after her two sons and enjoys listening to true crime podcasts.

Since 1993, the Kansas Volunteer Commission (KVC) has been promoting volunteerism by administering the AmeriCorps Kansas programs, strengthening volunteer centers, and supporting mentoring organizations through funds, training and technical assistance.

To learn more about Kansas’s VGF program and subgrantees, click here.