If you're looking to devote a significant amount of time to volunteer service, you may want to consider joining AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps was established in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and is generally considered to be a domestic version of the Peace Corps [source: AmeriCorps]. Most AmeriCorps positions require a major time investment but provide many benefits, not the least of which is being able to answer the president's call for service on both a local and a national level.
AmeriCorps' nationally managed programs consist of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), a year-long, full-time service program designed to fight poverty, and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a full-time program for adults aged 18 to 24 aimed at strengthening communities. NCCC requires a 10-month commitment from all its volunteers.
AmeriCorps State and National is the branch that oversees thousands of community-based service programs throughout the nation. Projects can be found in every state or U.S. territory and focus on various community needs in the realms of public health and safety, environment and education. Unlike VISTA and NCCC, state and national projects don't always require a full-time commitment from volunteers.
All three branches of AmeriCorps allow you to live and work almost anywhere in the country -- but you don't have to stray far from home if you don't want to. When you apply, you're asked to select in which states you would consider working. You should weigh this question carefully, as you will only be considered for the opportunities in those states.
Regardless of the program or the location you choose, you can expect some sort of compensation. Full-time volunteers will be provided a small allowance to pay their bills and cover necessities. Child-care and health insurance are also provided. Recent college graduates or students who plan to enter college are granted funds to help pay back loans or finance their education upon completion of their service.
Are you leery of grassroots volunteerism or not ready to devote hundreds -- or even thousands -- of hours to volunteer work? Don't worry, there are still plenty of ways you can help. In the next section, we'll explain how you can use anything from a concern for homeless pets to your video game skills to answer the president's call for service.