AmeriCorps and the Impact of Volunteerism on Local Communities

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The AmeriCorps program was designed to support volunteerism initiatives in local communities. The program has placed its members of all ages into programs addressing disaster relief, academic performance, the opioid epidemic, affordable housing, and other needs specific to communities throughout the United States.

With national service impacting communities of every size, socio-economic makeup, and location, the results are a testament to the power of volunteers and the results of successful initiatives in helping various populations with specific needs.

The Corporation for National and Community Service has brought the AmeriCorps program to over 40,000 communities across the country, providing 250,000 serving volunteers. Cumulatively, the program has provided over 1.6 billion service hours to date.

“The benefits of the AmeriCorps talent pool are evident in every State across the country,” says Michael Grayum, Washington’s governor-appointed Commissioner who champions AmeriCorps national and community service programs. “We are excited by the positive impact our dedicated volunteers are making addressing needs ranging from senior assistance, illiteracy, domestic violence survivor assistance, environmental conservation, and providing much-needed support for young people. AmeriCorps members engage with communities in the most meaningful ways and create sustainable, positive change.”

Through its many programs, AmeriCorps is supporting volunteerism in communities and placing its members to strategically support answers to the unique problems addressing each community.

  • AmeriCorps State & National members are placed in nonprofits, the public sector, colleges and universities, government, faith-based initiatives and tribal communities to further specific missions and initiatives. The program garners twofold benefits—first to the community, but just as importantly for the AmeriCorps members who experience personal growth, are exposed to a myriad of career paths, and foster a passion for lifelong volunteerism and community participation. These state and national AmeriCorps grants were established to provide direct or capacity-building assistance to communities.
  • AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP engages volunteers, 55 years and older, in addressing community needs critical to growth and success. This program is flexible in its use of volunteers, promoting member engagement and using its volunteers’ specialized skills to meet focused needs of veterans and the military, in disaster services, economic spaces, environmental stewardship, health, and education.
  • AmeriCorps Senior Foster Grandparent Program engages Americans in the senior age group as a one-on-one support for children with special needs. Through this grant program, organizations match AmeriCorps members 55 and older with children experiencing needs of an academic, social, or emotional nature. Through tutoring, buddy reading, mentoring, and serving children of all ages who have experience needs related to abuse or neglect, the Senior Foster Grandparent Program is bridging age gaps and creating positive role models for young people.

The programs offered under the AmeriCorps umbrella continue to grow to meet unique needs for children, adults, families, and entire communities throughout the country, and the country’s history of serving through volunteerism programs began long before AmeriCorps was established. In 1964, the VISTA program, Volunteers in Service to America, was created to assist communities in combatting poverty. The Foster Grandparents, RSVP, and Senior Companions programs were formed in 1973 under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act, and it would be nearly 20 years before the national government expanded upon its national volunteerism and community impact efforts. IN 1992, the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) was engineered to assist communities recovering from disasters and other major, critical needs.

In 1993, AmeriCorps, first known as the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), was formed as the agency to oversee national and community service programs. Those initiatives formed previously were incorporated under the CNCS agency, and 1994 would see the first AmeriCorps class engaged and deployed throughout the country.

The AmeriCorps program was established to bring people together and connect the right people with the best organizations to assist communities in addressing their biggest challenges. The match-grant nature of the program requires regular reporting for each program, and the results are consistently promising as communities engage AmeriCorps volunteers to help with capacity building and implementing their program needs.

In a 2021 study performed by Mathematica regarding the effectiveness of AmeriCorps programs, the results showed that interventions funded by AmeriCorps which met Mathematica’s effectiveness standards had more positive outcomes than 61% of community members who did not receive interventions. This was most true in education initiatives and those focused on employability, school readiness, and supportive family environments.

As AmeriCorps members move into communities as a response to educational needs, community crisis, substandard housing, epidemic or natural disaster, its impact continues to expand. In 2016, the group celebrated 1 million members and continues to grow. Moreover, the impact of the program has created long-lasting relationships with nonprofits and the federal government, creating sustainable community partnerships that engage community members to create a solid foundation of engagement and participation which benefits the area for years to come.