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The Presidential Candidates: Where they Stand on Volunteerism

Fonda Dawson, VolunteerHub.com

As Election Day draws near, I’ve been watching with interest. The race is heating up. We’ve been hearing a great deal about economics here at home and the state of affairs abroad. But one thing I haven’t heard much about is their stance on volunteerism. I thought I would delve into both candidates platforms and take the opportunity this month to bring you an unbiased report of both McCain’s and Obama’s approaches on this subject. (Just a note: I decided to present the information based on alphabetical or der of the candidates last names.)

McCain: Renewing Americas Civic Purpose

If elected president, John McCain will introduce his Service to America program, which will seek to infuse a higher level of volunteerism by increasing avenues for Americans who wish to serve in their communities. To increase communication between organizations, he plans to hold Volunteer Summits, in which individuals can share with others the best practices within their organizations and their most successful programs.

McCain also stresses the importance of education. He would utilize AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps volunteers as mentors and tutors in an effort to combat the high school dropout rate. He would work to get more college students involved in community service through the Federal Work-Study program, as current law calls for only seven percent of recipients to participate in community service projects. Striving to promote coordination among all federal service organizations, he would make certain that they are all efficient and on equal footing. Additionally, McCain would seek to improve the teaching of civics and American history through the use of volunteers that are able to instruct and tutor with a teaching certificate equivalency.

In addition, he considers both the private sector and faith-based agencies in his plan. McCain would work to establish a pool of private sector venture capital funds that would be paired with government grants to fund job retraining or vocational efforts in high schools and within communities with sustained job loss. Turning to faith-based groups, McCain would ensure that they are able to hire consistent with the views of the respective organization without risking federal funding, and thus boost these organizations volunteerism rates.

McCain would look to retirees as part of his volunteerism efforts. As the baby boomer generation retires, he would work to increase SeniorCorps opportunities. Specific issues addressed here would include mentoring at-risk students, aiding with community-based homeland security programs, and teaching American history overseas as a vehicle to bridge cultural divides.

McCain wishes to expand volunteer opportunities for disabled individuals, as well as involving U.S. citizens in disaster preparedness and response by making education and training resources available for community-based initiatives.

His scope goes beyond the nations borders. He would not only make service opportunities available for families here at home, but would also work to provide chances for volunteerism in foreign countries. McCain’s hope is that overseas service would promote communication and understanding between many cultures.

For further details, see John McCain’s website at http://www.johnmccain.com/ACTIONCENTER/PRINT.ASPX?R=9D3B4D48-6E41-496D-B573-3B92F089B05C&T=CEB20AD6-F634-43EF-AEDD-F5B59C4E02D7

Barack Obama: Enable All Americans to Serve to Meet the Nation’s Challenges

If elected, one of Obama’s priorities would be the enlargement of the Corporation for National and Community Service. He would increase AmeriCorps from the current 75,000 slots to 250,000. This would allow for the creation of Classroom Corps, which would aid teachers and students, with a focus on under-served schools. It would provide the people power necessary for a newly-established Health Corps targeted at public health outreach; a Clean Energy Corps that would work on weatherization and renewable energy initiatives; a Homeland Security Corps that would help communities plan and mobilize for emergencies; and a Veterans Corps to aid veterans at nursing homes, hospitals, and homeless shelters. Obama would also capitalize on the skills retirees have to offer by increasing networking opportunities for agencies connecting individuals ages 55 and over with volunteer positions.

Another focus for Obama is volunteerism in education. He would ask that all middle school and high school students donate 50 hours of community service annually. Obama would provide schools with better implements to develop and record student experience. His platform calls for the creation of Green Job Corps, which would give youths the chance to weatherize structures and receive practical experience in rapid-growth careers. Obama would expand the YouthBuild Program, which allows disadvantaged youth to graduate high school while learning construction job skills. Turning to college students, Obama would offer a $4,000 tax credit in exchange for 100 volunteer hours per year. He also would mandate that at least 25 percent of College Work-Study funds back opportunities for public service, rather than on-campus jobs.

In addition, Obama would work to improve the nonprofit sector. He would establish a Social Investment Fund Network as seed money to encourage funding from the private sector. These monies would be used to improve local innovation, test the impact of new ideas and expand successful programs to scale. Along with this, Obama would call for a division within the Corporation for National and Community Service that would focus on expanding both the size and impact of the nonprofit sector.

For more details, log on to Barack Obama’s website at http://www.barackobama.com/issues/service/

I hope this information is helpful to you as you choose your candidate in this years election.

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About Fonda Kendrick

Fonda Kendrick has over ten years’ experience in the nonprofit sector, a portion of which entails coordinating volunteers. She also enjoys researching and blogging for VolunteerHub.

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