Publicity from U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's recent tour of the La Mesita Family Shelter for homeless families in west Mesa was intended to help launch President Obama's volunteerism program, United We Serve [sic] locally, but it [also] helped A New Leaf, which operates the shelter, attract more volunteers. The program's goal is to stimulate more volunteerism, with Americans helping each other, especially during the recession.
After Secretary Locke's June 22 visit, A New Leaf received 10 calls from new volunteers who had read newspaper stories about the event or heard about it on television reports. Volunteers from Sun Valley Community Church in Gilbert called to discuss ideas for a group community service project, and four Eagle Scout candidates called in one week to do community service (they usually receive about two calls a month).
The Mesa-based non-profit operates 20 facilities valleywide, including two shelters in the East Valley, La Mesita and the East Valley Men's Center. It also operates Faith House, a domestic violence and transitional housing program in Glendale. The organization served 30,000 people last year and volunteers contributed 20,000 hours of service.
Like many nonprofits, A New Leaf has found that even with the blessing of a recent surge in volunteers, they need still more. In a tough economy, demand for services is rising while financial resources are declining, leaving volunteer manpower the only viable way to bridge the gap. To address this challenge all across America, the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service
have joined forces to create Serve.gov,
a quick and easy way to connect organizations with potential volunteers. Groups can post their needs on the site, and anyone interested in serving can find a list of the volunteer opportunities right in your community simply by entering your zip code – or you can create your own volunteer projects with easy-to-use tool kits.
It’s all part of "United We Serve," a nationwide service initiative to help meet growing social needs resulting from the economic downturn. With the knowledge that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things when given the proper tools, President Obama is asking us to come together
to help lay a new foundation for growth. This initiative aims to both expand the impact of existing organizations by steering new volunteers their way, and encourage new volunteers to develop their own "do-it-yourself" projects. United We Serve is starting with an initial 81 day burst of service, culminating in a day of celebration and commemoration on September 11, but it will grow into a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans.
Nicola Goren is the Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service