Serve America Act Passes in the US Senate: Generates More Opportunities to Volunteer and Serve

ATLANTA (March 27, 2009) –Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the Serve America Act, led by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), by a majority of 79. The bill unanimously amended and titled by all senators as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, will dramatically increase levels of volunteerism, improve and expand national service programs, including AmeriCorps, and provide for new pathways of service and social innovation to address our nation's most pressing challenges.

“This legislation signals true bi-partisan support for the nation's first volunteerism and service legislation in over 16 years—it was a tremendous moment as we listened to Senators of both parties speak eloquently about the unifying and emboldening power of service to change our nation and enliven our democracy.” said Michelle Nunn, CEO, Points of Light Institute and co-founder of HandsOn Network, the largest volunteer management and civic engagement organization in the world. “The passing of this innovative legislation means that millions of Americans – of all ages – to volunteer their time and talents to positively impact the nation’s largest problems – from education to energy efficiency to health care,” Nunn added.

The Serve America Act will include a Volunteer Generation Fund designed to maintain this increase in citizen service in America, putting community volunteers to work in their own hometowns to tackle some of the nation’s most pressing needs. It is also ensures that volunteers are recruited, trained, and supported in volunteer projects that have measurable outcomes. Under this Fund, grants to nonprofits and state service commissions would be awarded by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Nonprofit organizations and service commission would then sub-grant these funds to volunteer connector organizations around the country.

To increase the rate of volunteering, authorization levels for the fund would begin at $50 million and grow to $100 million over five years, leveraging billions of dollars in volunteer services to some of the country’s neediest citizens.

“It has been gratifying to participate and witness the evolution of this legislation. We have been pleased, over a number of years, to participate in a growing and powerful service coalition, led by groups like Voices for National Service, America Forward and Service Nation to both conceptualize the ideas in this legislation and advance passage of the bill,” said Nunn.

“We know that people are ready to serve–we have seen the response to President Obama’s message and Americans are stepping forward in record numbers. We see this every day throughout our network of 250 affiliates across the country—the numbers of people volunteering and seeking volunteer leadership roles in their communities is increasing daily. This legislation will help ensure that we can actually train, equip, and mobilize people, our greatest national resource, to change their communities and country,” said Nunn.

The legislation is expected to return to the House for a possible vote on Monday, and then to President Obama for his signature.

About Points of Light Institute
Points of Light Institute is a powerful, integrated national organization with a global focus to redefine volunteerism and civic engagement for the 21st century, putting people at the center of community problem solving. Our vision is that one day every person will discover their power to make a difference, creating healthy communities in vibrant democracies around the world. To realize this vision, Points of Light Institute operates three dynamic business units that share a mission to equip, mobilize and inspire people to take action that changes the world: HandsOn Network, MissionFish and the Civic Incubator.

For more information, contact, Jen Geckler, HandsOn Network, (404) 979-2941 or jgeckler@handsonnetwork.org