Gearan Notes Community Service Spike – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Gearan Notes Community Service Spike

Last week, President Mark D. Gearan was interviewed by radio stations across the country in his new capacity as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Gearan discussed the results of the Corporation’s recent survey showing how, even as Americans struggled through the deepest recession in decades, last year saw the greatest spike in volunteering since 2003. 

“More Americans are serving their communities, demonstrating the great and resilient spirit of America,” explains Gearan, noting that recent statistics by (VIA) show “Americans are addressing real problems, such as poverty, illiteracy, crime and homelessness.”

According to VIA, in 2009, 20.7 million people worked with their neighbors to solve community problems. Of those, 7.5 million served in this way rather than with a nonprofit organization. This is 500,000 more than in 2008.

Additionally, VIA shows that 1.6 million more volunteers served in 2009 compared to the previous year. The organization notes 63.4 million volunteers contributed 8.1 billion hours of service in 2009, equaling an estimated dollar value of approximately $169 billion for their services.

The Corporation for National and Community Service works with 50 state service commissions and more than 7,000 grantees and partners across the country to expand the number and impact of volunteers solving critical problems. CNCS also leads the President’s National Service Initiative – United We Serve. The organization has engaged more than 400 national partners and thousands of non-profits and faith-based groups in service activities through the initiative. UWS is reaching new audiences with the service message through a PSA that features rocker and philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi.

One resource for those who wish to become involved is the site which enables a localized or interest-area search of volunteer opportunities, as well as provides toolkits to help people create and build their own volunteer activities.

Among the points Gearan emphasized in his interviews is that while volunteering is high, “More Americans are needed to help strengthen lives and communities across the country. The work is not, nor will it ever be, finished.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service is working to expand service opportunities to more Americans – young and old, people from big cities and rural communities. From June 27 – 30, the Corporation will co-host a National Conference on Volunteering and Service in New York City. As part of the conference, Gearan will emcee a town hall discussion on national service that will recognize such programs as AmeriCorps VISTA and Foster Grandparents programs on Tuesday, June 29, at the Hilton New York.   

Since Gearan’s inauguration at the Colleges more than a decade ago, the institution has become an engaged leader in the community through several programs. The Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning was established to unite students with the greater Geneva community and provides opportunities to build the skills necessary for active citizenship through a variety of on- and off-campus events throughout the school year and during breaks. In addition, many HWS faculty members build service experiences into their coursework, allowing students to use the local community as a laboratory to test the theories and ideas they’ve learned in class. During the first-year orientation, all incoming students participate in a Day of Service, working alongside fellow students and Geneva community members on a variety of community service projects throughout the local area.

Earlier this year, the Colleges were named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service; and were ranked No. 17 in the category of ‘Small Colleges and Universities’ on the Peace Corps’ annual rankings of Peace Corps volunteer-producing schools, with 15 alumni and alumnae currently serving. The Colleges also were ranked one of the top colleges in the nation for community service and civic engagement by Washington Monthly in 2009.

Gearan, who is a former director of the Peace Corps, was first appointed to the Corporation for National and Community Service’s board by President Clinton in 2000, was reappointed by President Bush in 2004, and began serving his current term in 2007.  Gearan he became chair on June 1 of this year.