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 statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 www.marionph.org.

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 volunteeriowa.org.

Advertisements

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 statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

 

BREAKING: Congress Expands Funding for National Service and State Commissions in FY18 Omnibus Bill

shutterstock_603888953.jpg

March 23, 2018

UPDATE: President Trump has signed the FY18 Omnibus Bill providing expanded funding for AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, state service commissions, and the Corporation for National & Community Service! See below for more information on what the FY18 Omnibus contains.

Original Post:

March 21, 2018

Washington, DC

Today, Congress released the text of a $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus bill. The legislation is expected to pass both chambers of Congress by the end of the week ahead of a deadline to keep the government open past Friday.

It includes more than $80 billion in new defense spending and $63 billion in nondefense spending for most of the federal government.

CNCS received a total of $1,063,958 Billion in funding, an increase of $33.6 million over FY 2017 funded levels.

Here is the breakdown of CNCS funding:

State Commission Grants:   $17,538,000
AmeriCorps State & National:   $412,010,000
AmeriCorps VISTA:  $92,364,000
AmeriCorps NCCC:  $32,000,000
Senior Corps:   $202,117,000
Innovation, Demonstration & Other:   $7,600,000
— including Volunteer Generation Fund    $5,400,000*
Evaluation:  $4,000,000
National Service Trust:     $206,842,000
Salaries and Expenses:     $83,737,000
Office of the Inspector General:    $5,750,000

Total CNCS Funding:    $1,063,958,000

*Congress directed $5.4 million of the Innovation, Demonstration & Other budget to be spent on Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF).

AmeriCorps State & National and state service commissions received significant increases. AmeriCorps was increased by $26 million, while State Commission Grant received an historic $17.538 million — a $1 million increase. The Commission Investment Fund increased by $1 million to $8.5 million, and the Volunteer Generation Fund received an historic $5.4 million, an impressive increase of $1.6 million, thanks to the hard work of national service champions and groups which included ASC, the state service network, our new States for Service (S4S) Coalition.

The Explanatory Statement directs CNCS to provide not less than $8.5 million for training and technical assistance activities for State Commissions, to expand the capacity of current and potential AmeriCorps programs, particularly in underserved areas.

If you would like to read more, you can view the Bill Text here (see p. 1016 regarding CNCS) and the Explanatory Statement regarding CNCS here (p. 70).

With Congress directing $1 million for training funds to commissions and the $1 million increase to the State Commission Grant, Commissions received an increase of $2 million for FY 2018 above FY 2017.

Additionally, and as a direct result of the work of ASC, the state service network, and our new States for Service (S4S) Coalition, the legislation includes a new general provision to allow CNCS to establish a new and widely anticipated 1,200 hour service position, including a proportional reduction in the education award. This will provide AmeriCorps programs increased flexibility, and more closely align member service positions with the needs of local communities.

 

We are incredibly grateful for the rock solid support and continued investment for service by the Congressional Appropriations Committee leadership and their staff; especially Senators Cochran, Leahy, Blunt, and Murray; and Representatives Frelinghuysen, Lowey, Cole, and DeLauro.

We will continue to update you as this bill moves through Congress and then ultimately to the President’s signature by the end of the week.

 

Tom Branen
Chief Policy Officer
America’s Service Commissions

FY 2018 Appropriations Update

shutterstock_350136212

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.