Cultivating local champions of service is essential to building support for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs. That’s why we’re thrilled to see thousands of local leaders taking a #Stand4Service on the seventh annual National Service Recognition Day!
Local leaders play an important role in effecting change in Washington, DC. Congress looks to mayors, local business leaders, city council members, state legislators, and governors to help them understand how federal funds are being utilized on the ground and which investments are having the biggest impact back in their state or district.
What’s more, many of these local elected officials go on to serve in Congress, where they can play a critical role in decision-making for the future of national service funding and legislation. In the last election alone, Rep. Ilhan Omar, an AmeriCorps VISTA alumna, was elected to Congress after serving in the Minnesota House of Representatives, among many other mayors, city council members and former governors in the freshman class that have become familiar with the powerful work of national service through their prior roles.
Mayors and city leaders, county officials, and tribal leaders across the country are using national service more and more to solve their community’s toughest challenges. Through partnerships with schools, faith-based groups, non-profits, and local agencies, national service members are truly embedded within the communities they serve, using their ingenuity and training to make a tangible, lasting impact. Whether responding to natural disasters, tackling the opioid epidemic, educating students for the 21st-century workforce, or supporting veterans and military families, AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers help local leaders strengthen their communities.
Here are five local leaders, amongst many, who have been champions of national service in their communities:
Mayor Byron Brown: A fierce advocate for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, Mayor Byron Brown has participated in the National Service Recognition Day since its inception and he was named a Mayor4Service All-Star in 2016. Each year, across the city, 1,000 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members serve, contributing to what some have coined the rebirth of Buffalo. He has championed Buffalo’s remarkable revival and the significant progress the city has experienced under his leadership. “National Service programs have been an important part of our progress,” he said when speaking on $6.1 billion in new economic development activity which is expected to create over 12,000 new jobs for the city.
Governor and First Lady Sununu: Elected in 2017, Governor Sununu—along with his wife Valerie Sununu—has used his office to spotlight the work of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, and they have been engaging these programs to help New Hampshire communities stay healthy and strong. For the Sununus, service and volunteerism is a family priority. Valerie Sununu is a member of the City Year New Hampshire Board of directors and works to raise awareness and increase funding for several causes that support education, childhood development, reading, and addiction recovery.
“Whether combatting the opioid crisis or helping students graduate or preserving our public lands, AmeriCorps members are making New Hampshire a safer, stronger, and healthier place to live.”
— AmeriCorps (@AmeriCorps) August 2, 2018
Mark Donovan: As the president of the NFL team the Kansas City Chiefs, Mark Donovan still makes time to advocate for national service. When AmeriCorps funding was threatened, he called the members of the Missouri congressional delegation to communicate his support, and he invited Senator Roy Blunt to visit the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, so the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee could see the work of City Year and Teach For America AmeriCorps members firsthand. He has been one of the biggest supporters of City Year Kansas City, and constantly instills the values of service and giving back to his team and its athletes. At Voices for National Service’s Friends of National Service awards, Donovan said: “The more committed people to serve in our communities, the better our communities are.”
Mayor Jim Kenney: Mayor Kenney serves on the Cities of Service mayor’s council where he works to increase citizen engagement and service opportunities in his city of Philadelphia. Mayor Kenney has created the Day of Service program and the Mayor’s Volunteer Corps, two initiatives that match volunteers to high-quality, impactful and rewarding service opportunities that are aligned with local priorities. When talking about the service people in his city of the Friends of National Service Awards, Kenney says, “I wanna thank our service folks in the city. I wanna thank all of the volunteers, all the people who addressing our opioid crisis, working in our schools, working with our kids, all the things that they do enhance all of our lives together. And we need to make this National Service something that is embedded in all of us.”
Mayor Mike Dodson: Mayor Mike Dodson of Manhattan, Kansas believes in the transformative power of service, both military and civilian. Mayor Dodson served overseas through the army for 37 years and serves as the chairman of the Servicemember Agricultural Vocational Education farm, where veterans and servicemembers can develop valuable vocational skills while adjusting to civilian life. In his role as mayor, he has hosted the Director of Senior Corps and has also urged Congress to protect and grow the federal investment in SeniorCorps and CNCS.
National Service Recognition Day is only once a year, but programs and service leaders should take the opportunity to foster these relationships year round – through site visits, speaking engagements at events, and by finding creative ways to recognize your AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can get involved, sign up for our email list. Happy National Service Recognition Day!