Sunday, February 13, 2011

Protecting AmeriCorps.

Dear Congressman Duffy:

I understand that tomorrow, the U.S. House will begin consideration of a Continuing Resolution that will fund the last seven months of Fiscal Year 2011, and that deep cuts are being proposed to the Corporation for National and Community Service's budget. I'm writing to encourage you to vote no on any proposal to eliminate funding for AmeriCorps or the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

AmeriCorps is a cause that's extremely near and dear to my heart. I grew up in Ashland and after graduating from college in 2001, I felt called to give something back. I moved to Montana and served two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America); it was the most valuable life experience I've had to date. I worked with an extraordinary group of people from all across the country, ranging in age from 18 to 75 years old, building so many crucial things around the state - literacy tutoring programs for children, legal services centers for the poor, developing health programs for at-risk kids...the list goes on and on. Despite our many differences in age, background, political preferences and ideologies, what we all had in common was that we wanted to help make America a better place by rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty.

My experiences in Montana are replicated across the entire country every day, even right here in the Chequamegon Bay area, thanks to the opportunities that AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service help to provide.

What troubles me most about the possibility of CNCS/AmeriCorps' defunding is that the federal investment made in faith-based and community organizations through CNCS leverages $799 million in matching funds from companies, foundations and other sources. If national service programs are defunded, whole organizations may be forced to shut down and given the current economic crisis, most will not be able to reopen again even if funding is restored. The loss of these organizations will decimate vital services in our communities, at the very time that record numbers of people are seeking assistance from food shelves, shelters, low-income healthcare facilities, and job training centers.

I think our federal government gets a good return on its investment in the Corporation for National and Community Service. Cutting the funding to CNCS will have a terrible impact on AmeriCorps, RSVP, Foster Grandparents, Learn & Serve, and the thousands of community organizations that rely on those programs to fulfill their own local needs.

A lot of people pay lip service to volunteerism in this country; preserving AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service's other programs will ensure that a significant number of Americans do more than just talk the talk - they'll keep on walking the walk.

Thank you very much for your time and for your consideration.

(If you'd like to learn more about the proposed cuts to AmeriCorps and other Corporation for National and Community Service programs, or if you'd like to find out how you can contact your Congressional representatives, check this out.)

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