At the opening session of the ServiceNation Summit today, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced the Serve America Act, a bill cosponsored with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., which contains new legislation to expand opportunities for volunteerism and civic engagement.
The bill provides ways to increase volunteer opportunities for people of all ages, to support innovation in the nonprofit sector, and to improve and expand service at home and abroad. The legislation targets specific challenges in education, health care, energy and the environment.
One of the goals of the ServiceNation campaign is to inspire the next Congress to enact this legislation by Sept. 11, 2009.
“Volunteer service is the lifeblood of our republic. It brings out the best in people and strengthens our communities,” said Hatch, calling on the hundreds of leaders in the audience to help pass the bill.
“Time and again we’ve learned that large numbers of Americans are ready, willing, able and even eager to be involved in service, and that all we have to do is ask them,” said Kennedy in a news release. “The Serve America Act will ask.”
“More to Give,” a just-released report on volunteerism among Americans ages 44 to 79, found that seven out of 10 respondents had not been asked to volunteer. The report was released by AARP and Civic Enterprises.
The Serve America Act is intended to make it easier for people of all ages to contribute to their communities, and to help retirees stay active or transition to second careers. Among the provisions would be education awards for older volunteers that could be used by themselves or passed on to a family member or friend.
“We need to tap the talents of the longest-lived, healthiest, best educated, most highly skilled Americans in history,” Hatch said.
Cathie Gandel is a freelance writer based in New York.