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Ref: National Service plan to focus increasingly on response and preparedness programs

Learn & Serve

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National Service To Place Even Greater Focus on Disaster Preparedness and Response

Washington, D.C. - As the number of national service volunteers deployed to the Gulf continues to grow, the Board of the Corporation for National and Community Service today pressed the agency to ramp up its focus on disaster preparedness and response even further to provide assistance to communities in need.

The Board voted to direct the agency’s CEO to work with OMB to add a fifth strategic initiative to the plan that guides the agency and its programs through the year 2010. The original four initiatives, approved in September 2005 and released last February, are mobilizing more volunteers; ensuring a brighter future for all of America’s youth; engaging students in communities; and harnessing Baby Boomers’ experience.

The Corporation will seek input from its network of state commissions, grantees, and nonprofit and government partners on how to work together to put this strategic focus into practice. As part of those discussions, the agency will develop common objectives and measurable targets to make the national service enterprise even more effective in its disaster preparedness and response work.

“National service has been a heroic and indispensable part of the response to Hurricane Katrina,” said Board member Vince Juaristi. “Katrina showed the necessity of having a robust national service program that can deploy tens of thousands of trained volunteers for an extended period of time to give direct assistance and manage other volunteers. This action will ensure we are even better prepared for future disasters by building the relationships, systems, and training that are necessary for success.”

The Corporation and its NCCC, AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America programs have provided more than $130 million of resources to the Gulf Coast in response to Katrina, supporting more than 41,000 national service participants who have given more than two million hours of service in the Gulf. In addition to their direct service, they have been a key organizing force for mobilizing and managing the 550,000 Katrina volunteers. National service participants have established and operated shelters, provided meals and social services, coordinated the warehousing and distribution of donated goods, cleared debris, assisted special needs residents, provided information on housing and other resources, raised funds and mucked, gutted, and built thousands of homes.

The agency has learned many lessons from Katrina, and the new strategic initiative will provide a mechanism to put those lessons into practice. Among other findings, Katrina showed that AmeriCorps members can provide a wider range of higher-level roles than previously thought, including assisting with evacuation and special needs residents, supporting long-term recovery committees, and operating volunteer base camps – a role AmeriCorps members fulfilled in response to recent tornadoes in Florida and Greensburg, Kansas. Katrina also demonstrated the importance of forging relationships between national service assets and state and local emergency management agencies and the need for supporting governor appointed state service commissions as they expand their disaster preparedness and response roles.

The Board’s action comes on the heels of a flurry of recent activity by the Corporation relating to disaster preparedness and response, including:

This week, the first of 144 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates began serving in New Orleans in a special initiative to keep young people engaged and challenged over the summer months by providing enrichment programs, academic tutoring, and recreational activities for thousands of children. Another summer initiative run by AmeriCorps NCCC will engage 300 youth in full-time service in New Orleans, Charleston, and Denver.

Last week, the Corporation announced that three organizations will to receive awards totaling $900,000 to engage skilled volunteers in providing disaster recovery assistance to Gulf Coast communities.

To mark the first-ever AmeriCorps Week, more than 500 AmeriCorps members serving with Habitat for Humanity built 20 homes in one week in Gulfport, Mississippi late last month.

Last month, the Corporation hosted a national “Disaster Institute” to help state service commissions and AmeriCorps grantees become more active in state preparedness and response.

Also last month, the agency announced a “Disaster Coordinator Cadre” of specially selected and trained staff who will be available to go to the site of major disasters and help coordinate the involvement of national service assets and work with FEMA on Mission Assignments.

For several months, the Corporation has provided input to the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA on their redrafting of the National Response Plan, noting how national service programs can provide additional value in the areas of volunteer management, mass care, and infrastructure support.

In late January, the Corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) to enable smarter, faster cooperation between the Corporation and NVOAD’s members including Catholic Charities, American Red Cross, Volunteers of America and the Salvation Army.
“National service has always been involved in disaster response, but we learned a great deal after Katrina about how national service and volunteers can better serve communities. We’re ready to take our efforts up to the next level, and this resolution will help us get there,” said David Eisner, the Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer. “We thank the Board for seeing the incredible contribution that national service had made and will continue to make in the future.”

The resolution also directs the CEO to make adjustments to performance indicators used to measure progress in implementing the strategic plan as part of its required annual update to the plan. The agency will streamline the number of indicators from 25 to 20 and modify several of the existing ones.

In other business, the Board passed a resolution thanking “Corporation management and staff for their numerous accomplishments and the strong foundation they have laid for continuous achievements in pursuing the Corporation’s mission.” The resolution notes recent success in a number of areas including volunteer generation, disaster recovery, financial reforms, enhanced employee relations and human capital management, and increased general satisfaction among grantees, project sponsors, and partners. “This litany of successes reiterates how far the Corporation for National and Community Service has come, and we want the staff to know how much the Board appreciates their hard work,” said Board member Mimi Mager.

The Corporation for National and Community Service improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. Each year, the Corporation provides opportunities for more than 2 million Americans of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities and country through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America. For more information, visit


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