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N.Y. Mayor Announces New Effort to Expand Volunteerism

Resource type: News

The Washington Post |

Original Source

By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer

NEW YORK–Answering the president’s call to public service, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Monday announced a series of initiatives to make New York City a national leader for volunteerism.

The initiatives include appointing a chief service officer in charge of increasing volunteer participation; launching a campaign to recruit new volunteers and direct them to public agencies and nonprofit groups; requiring all public school principals to create a plan to promote volunteering among schoolchildren; and a special program to harness the professional skills of lawyers and financial advisors as counselors for families facing financial trouble.

The mayor said his initiatives will make it easier for tens of thousands of schoolchildren, professionals and others to volunteer, and that their efforts can mitigate the impact of the financial crisis on the city.

“This will unleash the power inside millions of New Yorkers to help those who need it most,” said Bloomberg, speaking at the Armory Track and Field Foundation in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. “Together we’ll be the first to bring to life a new era of service in America.”

The announcement came as President Obama is expected on Tuesday to sign the Serve America Act, which is to expand AmeriCorps, the national civilian service, from 75,000 to 250,000 positions a year.

Obama’s electoral campaign mobilized volunteers across the country, many of them new to political participation. After the election, Obama promised to make service a focus of his administration.

Obama also inspired the MTV network to address social issues, and the Monday announcement in New York was broadcast live on

“We are mobilizing the youth to help be the change they would like to see in this world,” said Sway Calloway, an MTV news correspondent who co-hosted Bloomberg’s event. “We’re in here for the long haul, okay, mayor? I got your back.”

Caroline Kennedy spoke at the event in a first appearance since she was passed over for the New York state Senate seat. She came as a representative of her uncle, U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the chief sponsor of the Serve America Act.

“Service has been my family’s cause for decades,” said Caroline Kennedy. “President Kennedy inspired a whole nation with a call to serve in his address,” she said of her late father. Now Obama is also making that call, and Bloomberg’s effort is a first step, she added.

Other programs include teaching volunteers CPR, encouraging them to plant gardens, organizing home visits to elderly people, and painting murals. The city’s Summer Youth Employment program will now include a public service element, and New Yorkers may now call the city’s 311 citizen inquiry hotline to learn about volunteer opportunities.

At the mayor’s gathering, various people pledged to meet new goals for volunteers. The executive director of New York Cares said the group would mobilize 50,000 volunteers in the city in the coming year. A public school student from Brooklyn pledged to plant trees to counter the effects of global warming.

Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior advisor, spoke in a video address, praising efforts to rally volunteers.

“This is especially important in times like these where more people need help and we need more people to help,” said Jarrett.

Since January, New York City officials have met with about 700 organizations and conducted research among local volunteers to identify ways to make it easier for them to serve. One survey found that 17 per cent of New Yorkers who want to volunteer do not know where to go to find opportunities.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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