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How Serve.gov Works

Potential volunteers across the country -- even kids -- can use the Serve.gov Web site to find volunteering projects.
Potential volunteers across the country -- even kids -- can use the Serve.gov Web site to find volunteering projects.
©iStockphoto/Jani Bryson

After the Sept. 11 attacks, then-President George W. Bush created the USA Freedom Corps in an effort to connect Americans with more opportunities to volunteer. He asked Americans to devote two years, or 4,000 hours, to volunteer service. The government launched the volunteer.gov Web site as a way for Americans to find millions of volunteer opportunities.

Aside from bringing new volunteer opportunities to light, the USA Freedom Corps also aimed to help strengthen a number of existing national service programs, like Citizen Corps, the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. President Bush also created the President's Volunteer Service Award - an honor open to all Americans. He also started the Presidential Greeter Program to recognize volunteers in cities throughout the country [source: Police Volunteers].

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 64.5 million people volunteered in 2004, an increase of more than 5 million from 2001 [source: B 2 Journal]. The population of the United States hovers right around 300 million, so that means more than 20 percent of its citizens volunteered their time to help others. It wasn't only adults, either. The Bush administration also launched the Volunteer Kids Web site, which encourages children to spend time helping others.

When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, he decided to dissolve the USA Freedom Corps and restructure the volunteering program. So Volunteer.gov is now known as Serve.gov. But although the corps doesn't exist anymore, its spirit lives on. Read on to find out about the Obama administration's reorganization of government-sponsored volunteering.

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The USA Freedom Corps lasted only as long as George W. Bush's presidency. Although President Obama decided not to continue the organization, he did sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act three months after taking office [source: Serve]. This put the Corporation for National and Community Service, also known as the CNCS, in charge of some of the organizations for which the USA Freedom Corps had previously been jointly responsible.

The CNCS was founded in 1993 to serve much the same purpose as the USA Freedom Corps. It's responsible for Learn and Serve America Senior Corps and AmeriCorps, all of which the USA Freedom Corps helped to strengthen. The USA Freedom Corps Web site is now called Serve.gov, but it does work in much the same way as its predecessor. People interested in volunteering can enter their zip code and a keyword to find opportunities based on location and interest. The Web site provides millions of opportunities throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

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The Serve Web site also benefits organizations in search of volunteers. Groups, foundations and organizations can register their volunteer projects, giving them immediate accessibility and higher exposure. To register for free, visit the Web site, fill out a short form describing your event and post it. Most events will post within one business day.

For even more ways to volunteer, you can also visit the CNCS Web site, which features information on the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act and numerous resources for organizations and potential volunteers. The number of volunteer opportunities only continues to grow. When it comes to volunteering, there really is something out there for everyone.

To learn more, visit the links on the following page.

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Sources

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Volunteering in the United States, 2008." Jan. 23, 2009. (Accessed 6/2/2009) http://www.bls.gov/news.release/volun.nr0.htm
  • George W. Bush Whitehouse Archives. "USA Freedom Corps: Strengthening Service to Meet Community Needs." (Accessed 6/2/2009) http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/bushrecord/factsheets/needs.html
  • Kozaryn, Linda D. "USA Freedom Corps Draws Volunteers." U.S. Department of Defense. March 13, 2002. (Accessed 6/2/2009) http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44255
  • Corporation for National & Community Service. "Edward M Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009." (Accessed 6/2/2009) http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/serveamerica/index.asp
  • Pisani, BD. "The success of USA Freedom Corps." The B2 Journal. Nov. 8, 2005. (Accessed 6/2/2009) http://www.b2journal.net/archive/2005/05-11-08-usafreedomcorps.html
  • Police Volunteers. "USA Freedom Corps: Overview." Oct. 21, 2005. (Accessed 6/2/2009)http://www.policevolunteers.org/news/freedomCorps.pdf
  • Serve. "Posting your Volunteer Opportunity with Serve.gov." (Accessed 6/2/2009) http://www.serve.gov/about.asp
  • Serve. "Welcome!" (Accessed 6/2/2009) http://www.serve.gov/
  • Volunteer Kids. "What is the USA Freedom Corps?" (Accessed 6/2/2009) http://www.volunteerkids.gov/

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