South Carolina was one of six states to host a national listening tour for national and community service organizations that are trying to discern how to work with the new law known as the Kennedy Act. A public forum in Columbia Thursday featured the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees America’s service and volunteering programs, including AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn and Serve America and other domestic volunteering programs.
The groups heard local input concerning the Edward Kennedy Servce America Act, which was signed by President Obama last month and will create new initiatives to increase public service opportunities.
United Way of South Carolina President Timothy Ervolina says there’s a big interest in the Kennedy Act because the federally-funded public service groups work through local community organizations like civic groups. “The Kennedy Act triples the number of AmeriCorps and other service programs. Most of those folks are placed in non-profit settings. The majority of AmeriCorps members, while they may work in schools or other public entities, they’re based in non-profits or faith groups.”
Ervolina says the state’s public service office that receives federal funding oversees a variety of agencies, including AmeriCorps Vistas, whose participants work on developing organizational capacity. “You also have the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. A lot of them work at Meals On Wheels programs or other senior outreach programs and there are several thousand of those around the state. A lot of times they’re affiliated with agencies on aging. There’s also the Senior Grandparents Program.”
Also, the Learn and Serve America group oversees volunteers as a function of the South Carolina Department of Education.
Each state has an office of volunteerism or national service. South Carolina is one of the few states with such an office that has been privatized. That change was led by Governor Mark Sanford more than a year ago.