State’s Americorps program renamed ‘Nevada Volunteers’ to increase interest
Nevada’s AmeriCorps program has been renamed Nevada Volunteers to bring more attention to the need for volunteers in a wide variety of charitable, educational and other organizations.
First lady Dawn Gibbons, honorary chairwoman of the group, said Nevada is now listed last in the nation, but that she doesn’t believe the state is actually last. She said the problem is no one tracks how many people are volunteering for which charities, schools and organizations.
“We need to have a better tracking system and promote it,” she said. “We need to work with the schools, work with the hotels and different businesses to find out who is volunteering.”
She said there are numerous volunteers helping out in public schools, at senior centers, homeless shelters and kitchens as well as on projects such as the Tahoe Rim Trail.
“There are a lot of people doing good and we need to make sure we highlight those people, bring them to the forefront,” she said.
But she said the commission is also charged with encouraging more people to get involved in volunteer activities in their communities. To help with that, she said, two special awards have been created and will be presented at the “Points of Light” dinner Jan. 31. One will honor a top volunteer helping seniors and the other honoring a volunteer working with youth groups.
She said to draw attention to the issue, a new Web site, http://www.nevadavolunteers.org, will be up and running in the near future.
Spokeswoman Diane Marie Collins said one goal of the effort is to create a system that will connect willing volunteers with the groups that most need them. She said there is a system at Lake Tahoe and one in Las Vegas but no statewide system.
The commission was created in 1998 when President Clinton created AmeriCorps as a sort of domestic Peace Corps. It is currently led by Gina Polovina.
Its purpose is to administer federal grant funding, providing money to organizations who then can hire AmeriCorps volunteers. Collins said those volunteers “are a catalyst to increase volunteerism,” helping to bring in unpaid volunteers.
Organizations must have federal nonprofit status to get grants from the program, but they can be for a wide range of programs from children’s programs to methamphetamine and other drug recovery efforts to senior programs – almost any programs that can use volunteers, including the Tahoe Rim Trail project.
Actual AmeriCorps volunteers are paid a minimum wage and receive an educational stipend when they finish their tour of duty, which can range from three to 12 months.