United We Serve: New Legislation Passed and a New Campaign Asking Americans to Serve

The most sweeping expansion of national service in generations was passed into law on April 2009. Known as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, this bill includes advancements for the Corporation for National and Community Service, our nation’s largest grant maker for service and volunteer opportunities for all ages.

The Corporation funds AmeriCorps, Senior Corp, and Learn and Serve Programs. Some highlights from the bill, specifically related to individuals 55 and older include:

  • Expansion of service opportunities for Americans of all ages, increasing the number of AmeriCorps members to 250,000 by 2017.
  • Authorization of a new Silver Scholarship program providing $1,000 education awards to individuals aged 55 or older who perform at least 350 hours of service per year (this award can also be passed to a child or grandchild)
  • Authorization of a new Encore Fellowship program that allows ten selected individuals aged 55+ to serve at organizations for a one year period. These organizations will be supported by $11,000 grants to cover living expenses for these individuals.
  • Enabling millions of working Americans to serve by establishing a nationwide Call to Service Campaign and a September 11th National Day of Service.

The bill authorizes these activities and the details about how and when each initiative will be implemented is in development.

The Retired and Seniors Volunteer Program, or RSVP, is America’s largest volunteer network for people age 55+ with over 500,000 volunteers nationwide. RSVP is federally funded under the Corporation for National and Community Service, with local support from Mecklenburg County and the United Way of Central Carolinas. In Charlotte, RSVP is sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Senior Center, Inc.

RSVP offers a full range of volunteer opportunities. Volunteers choose how and where they want to serve, the amount of time they want to give, and whether they want to draw on their skills or develop new ones. RSVP Charlotte places volunteers at over 60 local nonprofit agencies and government organizations that make a positive impact on our local community.

Now is the time to volunteer. First Lady, Michelle Obama, kicked off the United We Serve Campaign at the National Conference on Volunteering in June 2009. She stated, “The idea is to emphasize to people across the country that service is a part of who we are as Americans and to highlight the power of service to make a difference in people’s lives.” United We Serve is a call to service challenging all Americans to help lay a new foundation for growth by engaging in sustained, meaningful community service.

Across the nation, the Serve America Act will go into effect on October 1, 2009. To kick off this important initiative in our local community, RSVP Charlotte is excited to host a Senior Volunteer Fair on October 1st from 11am-2pm at the Tyvola Senior Center. This free community event is an opportunity to learn about volunteer opportunities from agency representatives.

Answer the call to serve! Learn more about volunteer opportunities in your community by contacting RSVP at (704) 817-5465 or visit the website www.rsvpcharlotte.org.

Sarah Jackson, RSVP Program Director, Charlotte, NC, Mecklenburg County

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