Throughout this week, we have been honoring the service and commitment of our nation’s volunteers. As President Obama said earlier this week:
"America's story has been marked by the service of volunteers. Generations of selfless individuals from all walks of life have served each other and our Nation, each person dedicated to making tomorrow better than today…Volunteers are the lifeblood of our schools and shelters, hospitals and hotlines, and faith-based and community groups. From mentoring at-risk youth and caring for older Americans to supporting our veterans and military families and rebuilding after disasters, these everyday heroes make a real and lasting impact on the lives of millions of women and men across the globe."
At the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, we see the president’s words ring true every day. Our center, which focuses on building resilient communities among faith-based and community organizations, works hand-in-hand with voluntary groups every day. Volunteers are critical to our mission, and are often the unsung heroes that help bring communities back together and drive their recovery following a disaster.
For example, during the aftermath of the Nashville floods last spring, an interfaith group of volunteers -- Muslims, Jews, Methodists and Baptists – came together to clean flood-damaged apartments and distributed food and other supplies. Our DHS and FEMA teams worked alongside them, along with our partners at AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps teams, to remove doors, walls, cabinets, carpeting and insulation in homes devastated by the flooding.
It took the entire team, powered by the spirit and resiliency of these volunteers and the community, to get the region back on its feet. Tennessee is one of just countless stories we could share, but it’s a meaningful reminder of what is possible when Americans come together to help communities in their time of need. Volunteerism is a part of our nation’s great legacy, and we have seen it time and again, after every disaster.
As Administrator Fugate frequently points out, faith-based and other voluntary organizations are a critically important part of the team. They are effective and efficient. And they’re good for taxpayers – each year volunteers generate hundreds of millions of dollars worth of benefits by helping individuals and families during and after disasters.
For more information about how your organization can get involved in volunteer opportunities please visit http://www.citizencorps.gov/.