Zero-Sum Budget Game
Local agencies threatened by cuts to AmeriCorps.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
As the budget battle looms in the nation’s capitol, leaders of local nonprofits fear a domino effect over GOP plans to kill funding for AmeriCorps.
The Service Learning Institute has 12 AmeriCorps VIPs at agencies like the Community Partnership for Youth, Second Chance and the Salvation Army.
“In a time without teachers aides and increasing class sizes,” says institute coordinator Laura Lee Lienk, “these programs are the glue that holds the community together.”
Locally, AmeriCorps averages 13,500 volunteer hours a year. “Not having these programs kicks a community down and kicks the future down,” Lienk says.
Nearly 30 AmeriCorp literacy tutors work at four local school districts. Shari Hastey, executive director of Community Partnership for Youth, says losing a volunteer means losing a role model. “We encourage kids to go to college and return to serve like our AmeriCorps volunteer did.”
As a coordinator for Community Alliance with Family Farmers, AmeriCorps VIP Jenna Segal arranges farm trips to teach children about nutrition, composting and ecosystems. She fears most communities don’t understand AmeriCorps. “We’re trying to empower communities, but the awareness is not reaching them,” says Segal. “They want to cut a program where people barely make minimum wage—we’re here to serve.”