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Tom Nelson: National Conference on Volunteering and Service, Panel on Boomer Engagement

In Florida, our state office used Create the Good toolkits to help people prepare for hurricanes.

In California, Create the Good worked with the Entertainment Industry Foundation to build sustainable gardens as a living classroom for elementary school students.

In South Dakota, Create the Good volunteers supported a new food bank. In Alabama, volunteers helped to feed 500 homeless individuals and connect them to local service providers.

In April, here in New York City—and elsewhere around this state—our New York office deployed 2,000 volunteers to survey hundreds of intersections for walker safety.

Making homes more energy efficient or able to withstand hurricanes--—making streets safer for pedestrians—supporting food banks—planting gardens—these are projects with demonstrable impact.

So, those are some of the ways in which we’re trying to create good through Create the Good. As these examples show, we’re making service accessible, meaningful, and inviting.

People can visit to find or post ways to get engaged in helping their neighbors and communities. With a database searchable by zip code and topic, we’re connecting those who want to serve with an enormous range of opportunities for service. It includes about a quarter of a million searchable opportunities.

While flexibility is a hallmark of CreateTheGood, we’ve also learned something many of you could have told us: people respond better to a specific request than to a vague one.

So, CreateTheGood also has begun to organize service campaigns, calling our members to help improve a particular cause together. Next week, we’ll launch a campaign with school principals called “Equipped to Learn” in which people will be collecting needed school supplies to help students succeeding school. In the fall, we’ll be promoting efforts to combat hunger.

In all these campaigns, we’re connecting with existing efforts to achieve joint outcomes. We want to be part of the service community and support the good work that is happening in so many places.

All of that good work reflects a point that David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, made earlier this year. “The culture of service,” he wrote, “is now entrenched and widespread.”

I believe that’s right—and I believe something else, too: People 50-plus are helping to lead this movement.

As for the tired image of older people just wanting to put their feet up: Well, as the phrase goes in New York, fuhgeddabout it. More and more, our members want to get their arms around a problem and help a neighbor or a community.

When it comes to Boomers, I agree with words popularized by a great New Yorker, Tony Bennett: The best is yet to come.

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