President Obama's 2014 budget includes a small investment for those who care about volunteer service and a big tribute to the father of the modern-day volunteer movement.
Yesterday, the President not only restored funding for the Volunteer Generation Fund but he allocated $10 million for it and renamed it in honor of President George H. W. Bush.
That's fantastic news – for two reasons.
First, it's smart policy. The fund will provide competitive grants to support the recruitment, management and training of volunteers in direct response to critical national problems.
In past years, the Volunteer Generation Fund has seeded an array of innovative and effective volunteer programs in 19 states. In Sioux City, Iowa, for example, the Fund helped create a new volunteer center that mobilized thousands of volunteers to respond to the Missouri River flooding in 2011. And when tornadoes decimated entire communities near Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Fund helped support a 211 volunteer hotline that mobilized more than 60,000 volunteers to assist with the recovery.
With state after state anticipating cuts in social services and as the nonprofit sector plugs away on the front lines of an embattled economy, it's critical that we find new ways to leverage the one resource that is low-cost, plentiful, effective, renewable and provides a dramatic return on investment — volunteers.
Second, it's a well-deserved honor for one of our country's most remarkable public servants. President Bush's record of service to his country is well known. He enlisted in the armed forces on his 18th birthday. He flew 58 combat missions before he was shot down over the Pacific during World War II. He served as a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. envoy to China, director of the CIA, vice president and president.
Outside of his career, President Bush has given so much of his time to causes he believes in. From his work helping to launch the United Negro College Fund on the Yale campus after World War II to his relief work with Bill Clinton in the wake of Katrina to his work raising millions for cancer research, President Bush has been an extraordinary volunteer.
While President, George H.W. Bush heralded the power of volunteers – "points of light" – to create change. Even in times of scarcity, he said in his 1989 inaugural address, we have a natural resource that continues to grow – "the goodness and courage of the American people."
Since his term, each succeeding President has embraced the power of service and joined across party lines to encourage Americans to serve. The Presidents Club has come to be defined by their shared commitment to lifting up and mobilizing "points of light" throughout the nation.
It is totally fitting that now – if Congress stands behind President Obama – millions of people will be mobilized to do critical community work in President Bush's name.
You can help seal this bipartisan moment and support volunteers nationwide by sending a quick email to your members of Congress. Urge them to stand behind the George H.W. Bush Volunteer Generation Fund.
CEO, Points of Light