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Jun. 13

Reflections From New Orleans: National Conference on Volunteering and Service

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Today's post was published on the Jeff Hoffman & Associates blog on June 10, 2011.

Today’s guest post is written by Jeff Hoffman, a Points of Light Institute board member who strongly supports corporate volunteering.  When Jeff worked at Disney, he was responsible for the global growth of the Disney VoluntEARS program. Today he has his own Global Philanthropy and Civic Engagement firm.

"It’s been almost six years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States.  While much of New Orleans is still rebuilding, the spirit of a determined, compassionate and hospitable citizenry permeates the Big Easy.  This was a busy and inspiring week.  The National Conference on Volunteering and Service, co-convened by the Points of Light Institute and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) brought together 4,600 leaders from across the country plus some international attendees.

My first two days were spent with my colleagues at the International Association of Volunteer Efforts’ Global Corporate Volunteer Council meeting.  Businesses are doing so much to engage their employees and strengthen communities. We had corporate representation from four continents.  The highlight was the debut of the completed Global Corporate Volunteering Research Report.

The first day of the conference began early out in some of New Orleans’ neighborhoods helping to build and rehabilitate 25 parks.  Bob Lane and I were at Bunny Friend Park in the 9th Ward joined by 70 conference volunteers as well as members from HandsOn New Orleans, AmeriCorps/NCCC and residents of the community.  By mid afternoon shade areas were built, trees planted and buildings painted.  The residents couldn’t thank us enough.  Back at the conference, speakers ranged from the ever inspiring Michelle Nunn of the Points of Light Institute, to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, The COO of Starbucks Coffee USA Cliff Burrows, The White House’s Melody Barnes, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and musician Branford Marsalis to name just a few.  Many great forums and workshops were held over the course of Conference.

Notate September 11 on your calendar as it is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country and in remembrance of those who were lost one million people will be volunteering as part of the 9/11 Day of Service.

Reimaging Service, a new coalition, outlined what it is to be a service enterprise and fundamentally utilize volunteers as a core function to your work.  And speaking of Reimaging Service, I spent my last day in New Orleans with my colleagues on the Reimagining Service Council.  A group of some of the smartest people I know who are committed to helping to more effectively activate people in civic engagement.

The troubling dark cloud over the conference was the issue of certain members of Congress working to eliminate CNCS and with it, AmeriCorps.  While I agree we need to reduce the national deficit while making government more efficient,  national service is not the place to do it.  Seeing firsthand the stories of the AmeriCorps’ impact of energizes us to do a better job of educating our legislators about the impact of this cost effective solution known as national service.

The conference ended with performances by two different local jazz groups interspersed with awards to some amazing citizens for their actions.  It was an invigorating, and exhausting, week!  I look forward to working with others this coming year to increase civic participation.  And to all of my service friends and colleagues, I look forward to seeing you next June in Chicago!! ...my kind of town."

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