Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It’s National Service – Don’t Call It Volunteering

It's a question of value.

Amplify’d from

From Capitol Hill

It’s National Service – Don’t Call It Volunteering

By Eleanor Clift

Young people between the ages of 16 and 19 are volunteering 100 percent more than their counterparts of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s while boomers seeking post-retirement fulfillment are on track to double in 10 years the number of AmeriCorps volunteers who are seniors. There are more volunteers than ever in AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, and the most sought after placement on college campuses is with Teach for America.

Volunteers receive a subsistence allowance “so they can eat,” said Eisner, along with some modest education benefits once they’ve completed their service. “This whole thing of drawing a line between paid and unpaid volunteers is becoming an anachronism,” he said, citing the growing reliance on an involved citizenry to deal with societal problems that span the range of human life from dropouts to elder care, homelessness and prison recidivism. “Civic engagement is no longer considered just nice. It’s at the heart of solving problems,” said Eisner.

Investing in volunteer efforts offers a return, both real and psychological, and that has caught the attention of senior legislators like Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who from their opposite parties and ideological positions are talking about collaborating on a new bipartisan national service bill. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger elevated the state commission on Service and Volunteering to Cabinet level in recognition of its critical role in supplying hundreds of volunteers to assist victims and firefighters during the recent fires.

With budget restraints at every level of government, paid volunteers are no longer a feel-good luxury. They’re becoming a necessity.


Eleanor Clift is a contributing editor for Newsweek magazine. Her column, “Capitol Letter” is posted each week on and MSNBC. She is a regular political panelist on the nationally syndicated show The McLaughlin Group, which she has compared to “a televised food fight.” She is also a political contributor for the Fox News Channel.


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