on Civic Renewal
Commission on Civic Renewal Second Plenary Session, continued
Panel Two: Community
Service & Community Action
One: Faith & Character
Two: Community Service & Community Action
Panel Three: Youth
Panel Four: Politics & Civil Society
Two: Community Service & Community Action
National Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Lum Member of Board of Directors, Hands On Atlanta
President, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
Let us now continue with our second panel for this morning. The
theme for this second panel is "Community Service and Community
Action." As before, we will hear from representatives of three
impressive organizations. Our first witness is Thomas McKenna,
National Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Thank you. You've got a "Quick Facts" sheet that has all of our
state and city agenciesour five hundred and tens, as we
call themon the back.
to say about Big Brothers Big Sisters of AmericaI think
you're all familiar with our general approach of a one-to-one
relationship with a caring adult and a child in needone
thing I always like to say, to get it in proper perspective, is
that we're a volunteer-driven organization. What does that mean?
That means if we got a hundred million dollars tomorrow, we couldn't
mount a program unless we were able to gain the support of people
in communities across America to volunteer to be Big Brothers
and Big Sisters. And I think that's terribly important, because
it speaks to our basic support in communities across America.
And I want
to tell you just a little bit about how the program works, because
we've been talking early today about single-parent moms. Well,
single-parent moms are really the population of over 80 percent
of the kids we serve. And they come to our program, and they're
interested in their son or daughter getting a Big Brother or Big
Sister, and they're involved throughoutnot only in the process
of selection of the Big, as we call he or she, but also in support
groups beyond that, the same way that the young person himself
is involved in the participation and the selection of the volunteer.
So there's a careful process we go through, which I'll talk about
a little bit more. But I just wanted to make it clear that there
is that base of support in the community or we wouldn't have a
thing I want to say, especially after what's been said earlier
today, is, we do not see ourselves as a substitute for the parent.
If that were the case. . . Think about it this way: half of the
kids we serve are girls; they're also coming from single-parent-mom
families. Now they have Big Sisters. No one would say that Big
Sisters are a substitute for the mom; I don't think they'd say
they're a substitute for the dad. So that we see caring adults
in a more general way. We think that probably all children, obviously
all children need caring adults, and parents are caring adults.
So, to a certain extent, I think what was created earlier today
may have been a bit of a straw-man impression,if at least
that's what you were referring to with us, in terms of mentoring
and parachuting into communities to substitute for parents. Because
that's certainly not what our philosophy and approach is.
We do believe,
however, that it is important to create an infrastructure for
effective mentoring to take place. And that does include recruitment,
selection, screening, training, and ongoing support. And we think
that in order for there to be long-lasting relationshipsand
I agree with what Wade said earlier, that these shouldn't be just
temporary relationshipsthere needs to be that support. And
our average match, by the way, across the country, is over two
and a half years. So that we're not in favor of creating mentoring
all over the country in these so-called pop-up programs to solve
the problems, because we don't think that's going to work. It's
not a question of parachuting volunteers in and throwing them
at the kids. That's definitely not our approach.
our approach? What is our philosophy? Our philosophy is essentially
focused on positive youth development. Now that's an asset-based
as opposed to a deficit-based approach. The deficit-based approach
in this countrywhich I think has been predominant for many,
many yearsis, you identify a problem, whether it's drug
abuse or school dropouts, and then you develop a program to deal
with it. And they're called prevention programs, but really what
they are is intervention, too little, too late. And I think if
you look at the statistics and research, you'll find that often
they're not very effective. Whereas our program, and that's Big
Brothers Big Sisters . . . I think it has been proven that it
works. I just handed this out, which is the latest description
put out by OJGDP about the effectiveness of our program. And just
to put it in context, for those of you who aren't aware, we had
(and I think this was the first significant study doneand
I'll be interested if people can challenge me on thisin
the last 30 years), where you have a multimillion-dollar, independent
research study that's done with many sites across the country,
with a significant sample and a true control group, in a social
program. In other words: the same kidsyou get a Big, you
don't. Random. At the end of 18 months, the results that are illuminated
here were quite dramatic.
But if you
want to talk about specific deficits, for example, overall statistics.
Kids that had a Big were about half as likely to get involved
in first use of drugs, and about half as likely to skip school,
and about a third as likely to get involved in violent behavior.
If you were an African-American boy between 10 and 14, you're
one third as likely to get involved in first use of drugs if you
had a Big Brother, as compared with a similar population, randomly
selected, of kids that didn't. And this was a sample that was
larger than the Head Start sample nationally, so we're talking
about something we think is very significant and substantial.
Now, just a little bit more about our program. We like to say
that it's as elementary as putting a friend in a child's life,
as essential as putting hope into a child's future. Our mission
is to create competent, caring, and confident young people. And
our vision is caring adults in the life of every child in need.
Caring adults doesn't mean you have to be a Big Brother or Big
Sister. But we do have a challenge, and the challenge is to move
from success to greater significance. So that we're looking at
ways to expand and export what we do. We're looking for partners
such as schools, corporations. We think that site-based mentoring
has some real possibilities, and we're also looking to export
our program into Boys and Girls Clubs, Salvation Armies, other
places where we think they could sponsor a Big Brother Big Sister
program in much the same way they would sponsor Scouting, for
a big challenge to reach underserved communities. We made some
inroads through partnerships with One Hundred Black Men in the
African-American community. We need to do a lot more to engage
blue-collar workers, and also senior citizens. Less than 15 percent
of our Bigs are over 40, for example. We want to do a lot more
with unions, and we're working with now with AFL/CIO to develop
something. And we need to be much more effective in reaching out
into the Latino or Hispanic community with our program.
the relationship of all this to civic renewal? How do we fit in
there? We have an effort now, that's been under way for close
to a year, that's taking a look at the notion of: What if we got
our volunteers (our Bigs, as we call them) involved, in essence,
in thinking of themselves as advocates for positive youth development?
If they saw that their role as being a Big Brother or Big Sister,
was trying to have an influence on the environment that Johnny
or Sally, their Little, is part of? Think of the kind of connection
there, in terms of citizenship, in terms of involvement. And it's
not abstract. It's because they have a relationship, an ongoing
semi-monthly or weekly relationship, with a young person, and
they have a particular understanding or capacity to therefore
get involved and engaged. So we're very interested in looking
at that. Because there's an enormous potential there.
me just close, since there's a minute left, by saying that I'm
a little concerned about some of the cynicism that I hear about
the summit, about some of the things that are happening. In our
society, we tend to be an either/or: you know, we got to do this
or there's that. And people talk about the summit and they say,
"You know, gee, it didn't deal with government's programs," or
"Gee, it's the new welfare establishment," or whatever. But it
seems to me that we ought to be talking more about both/and. I
mean, if you want to talk about the spirit that came out of the
summit, that, it seems to me, is looking at the glass as half
full. We ought to be thinking about how we can develop and promote
and utilize that, not how we can tear it down. And so I feel that
probably that's the most important message overall of our service
and our program, and of your workand that's looking for
things that do work, for positive assets, and building on them.
To try to get to this civic renewal that we know that you're after,
and certainly we're after in Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.
Well, Tom, thank you very much for that very important testimony.
We will next hear from Jill Morehouse Lum, who is a member of
the Board of Directors of an organization called Hands On Atlanta.
Thank you for having me here today. I really feel like our story
is extremely compelling, so I'm happy to be here to share it with
you all. I'd like to give you a quick overview of our work in
relation to civic engagement and the way we do business, and share
our Citizen Schools initiative with you. I also hope to put some
pictures in your head, some mental snapshots about the results
of the work that we do.
started with 12 young adults sitting in a living room in 1989
discussing the trials of trying to volunteer. They believed that
there had to be easier way to get involved in the Atlanta community,
and took it upon themselves to create the way. Over time the tag
line for the organization changed from "volunteering for a better
community" to "building a better community through service."
In the late
'80s it seems that established organizations weren't capitalizing
on the energy or compassion of youth and working people, particularly
young professionals. The old models didn't create ways for people
to flexibly volunteer. The City Cares model is all about helping
people creating their own opportunities to make a difference.
None of the Cares organizations were started as projects of existing
institutions like United Ways. These organizations are volunteer-led
at every level. And that's why I'm here with you todayI'm
a Hands On Atlanta volunteer.
that volunteer service is essential to strengthening the Atlanta
community. Our mission is build community by offering an incredible
spectrum of volunteer opportunities, deploying a diverse and committed
corps of more than 13,000 volunteers, and cultivating service
leaders. We believe service is a reciprocal exchange in which
both the people serving and the people served share and learn
from one another.
Atlanta's approach weaves the fabric of community by bringing
people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives together to work
towards a common goal. We have a special interest in giving children
and youth the opportunity to serve, and we help volunteer tutors
and mentors to capitalize on the talents of young people. We think
service is transformative. As volunteers take an active role and
learn more about the issues facing our community, they take on
increasingly greater roles both within our organization and as
leaders with our partner agencies. Their world gets a little bigger,
their expertise grows, and their sense of community deepens.
Atlanta came into being through the energy and desire of young
working people to have a deeper relationship with the greater
community. All the City Cares organizationsGreater DC Cares,
New York Cares, LA Works, Hands On Charlotte, etc.respond
to existing needs as stated by the community through citizen-led
efforts. Hands on Atlanta is absolutely "of its time" in the way
it began and the way it works.
Atlanta quickly learned that there was quite a demand among Atlanta's
citizens for a one-stop shop which both put volunteers in touch
with literally hundreds of volunteer opportunities and provided
an avenue for serving side by side with other folks. On the flip
side, community agencies were struggling to attract working people
to volunteer service. Hands On Atlanta took responsibility for
addressing both critical community needs and the call among citizens
for diverse opportunities and flexibility in scheduling volunteer
time. Since 1989 Hands On Atlanta has grown from a few dozen friends
to a corps of 13,000 volunteers who take part in more than 2,600
projects each year. In 1996 alone, HOA volunteers contributed
more than 263,000 service hours to the community.
Atlanta serves the needs of today's volunteers and the 78 agencies
we support through the talents and time of those volunteers. It's
quite a balancing act to manage the creative tension that exists
between meeting the needs of the community and the needs of the
volunteer. Many organizations either focus exclusively on making
volunteers happy or on addressing a critical need. The former
approach sometimes focuses on the volunteer at the expense of
the impact, and the latter sometimes fails to invest in volunteers
to get important work done.
we know that the only way citizens are going to "vote with their
feet" and keep coming back is if what they do addresses a genuine
need. We've become experts in investing in people so that they
are prepared to serve, and in helping schools and agencies to
effectively utilize volunteers. Funders and large institutions
aren't the only ones talking about outcomes and measurement! Citizens
don't have to volunteer. If the work doesn't seem to be making
a difference, if the volunteer doesn't have an opportunity to
influence the work and help solve problems, you can bet they won't
make a long-term commitment. We only invest in what workswe
are volunteers. We're not going to waste time on programs that
aren't working. We don't have to.
Atlanta is like a translator. We try to understand the language
of the community and the language of the volunteer. And we look
for mutually beneficial ways to connect these two universes.
all our programs are designed to naturally draw people in at a
level they are comfortable with. It is a new model. Other models
for volunteer servicewhich require membership, or an up-front
commitment of 50 hours at the same placement or agency, or a minimum
of three tutoring sessions a weekwork extremely well for
some people. Hands On Atlanta meets the volunteer needs of people
who want to start by first putting their big toe in and testing
the water. If a year-long commitment or volunteering in the middle
of the workday were the only way to get started, lots of folks
would never make the first step to get involved.
come to a HOA volunteer orientation and become familiar with our
monthly guide to service, The Citizen, Hands On Atlanta's staff
and volunteer leaders work hard to support the learning and leadership
development needs of volunteers so that they can be an asset to
our partner agencies.
Atlanta is realistic. We know what can be accomplished with casual,
short-term volunteers and where they will fall short. We also
know that caring is not enoughand we, as volunteers, don't
make commitments that we can't keep. The 250 volunteer-led projects
in The Citizen show all the ways there are to make a difference.
The Citizen illustrates that there is no excuse not to get involved.
We provide a mechanism for connecting people to evening, weekend,
one-time, small group, or big-event projects to fit every schedule,
skill and interest.
great one-day projects, like "Ramps for Champs," where eight volunteers
come together to build ramps at the homes of low-income seniors.
On Hands On Atlanta Day as many as 10,000 people pledge hours
of service and get an incredible introduction to volunteerism
and the work Hands On does 365 days a year. Even Discovery, our
Saturday enrichment programs at our 17 school sites, encourages
self-described first-time and "just this time" volunteers to join
in for the day. Most of these seemingly casual volunteers get
hooked as they learn with and laugh with the students. Many become
regular volunteers and eventually take on leadership roles as
volunteer curriculum coordinators and weekend principals. But
I'll tell you, very few of these leaders would be with us if they
had been required to start as a curriculum coordinator with a
6-8 hour-a-week commitment! Actually, if you asked around, you'd
find that lots of our board members initially got involved with
the organization as Discovery volunteers.
our huge success at drawing literally tens of thousands of people
out of their comfort zones and into the larger community offers
an important perspective in the conversation about moral decline.
My friends at Hands On Atlanta would probably say that the problem
is not apathy, but barriers to opportunity. Prior to Hands On
Atlanta's founding, there were a lot of false barriers that actually
prevented people from volunteering. Hands On Atlanta projects
occur primarily on weekends and evenings. When people know that
they are meeting a need and making a real difference, when they
are enriched by the experience and their skills and time are well
used, and when they have opportunities to learn and grow and contribute
in new ways, they keep coming back. Hands On Atlanta serves the
needs of the volunteer and the needs of the community.
of our mission I want to focus on today is our work with children
and youth and our Citizen Schools initiative. It all began seven
years ago, with a volunteer named Richard Goldsmith. Incidentally,
Richard received the Presidential Service Award in 1995. He read
an article in the newspaper about a school that had the lowest
test scores in the state of Georgia. Richard called the principal
and said, "How can I help? I am part of this new volunteer organization.
Is there anything we could do?" The principal suggested Saturday
tutoring. On that first Saturday, 40 volunteers and 150 kids showed
up! Now Hands On Atlanta volunteers run tutoring and mentoring
programs in 17 elementary and middle schools engaging more than
700 citizens. It seems like the most sensible thing in the world
nowusing school facilities during non-school hours and tutoring
kids during the one day when volunteers have the time. But seven
years ago it was pretty revolutionary for teachers to share curriculum
ideas with weekend volunteers, and principals to open their schools
on Saturday mornings, and kids to have easy access to tutoring
support in the neighborhood.
Schools initiative is based on the premise that every adult citizen
has a role to play in supporting Atlanta's schools and that schoolchildren,
Atlanta's youngest citizens, should have the opportunity to serve
and make a difference as part of their learning.
Schools is a response to what we know about what we do bestleveraging
all the resources of the community to support the education of
its youngest citizens. As a former teacher in the Atlanta Public
Schools, I can tell you that it is not just another program; it's
a way to strategically and sustainably address the needs of schools
and kids. I am always intrigued when people beam about the 50,000
Olympic volunteers. Everyone says we couldn't have done it without
them. They were part of the strategic plan. Through Citizen schools,
Hands On Atlanta provides a detailed infrastructure and tested
experience in managing volunteer efforts in the schools.
there's been a lot of frustration among corporate and civic volunteers
trying to support public schools. Volunteers complain that schools
are not prepared to use their time effectively, and schools stress
the lack of resources available to manage successful volunteer
Hands On Atlanta's education programs support more than 4,000
students. The Citizen School framework utilizes AmeriCorps members
to create a proven infrastructure, award-winning programming and
tools to allow hundreds of volunteers to step into meaningful
roles as tutors, mentors and project leaders. The Citizen Schools
initiative joins corporations with communities to engage thousands
of volunteers and cultivates invaluable partnerships between community
partners, parents, Hands On Atlanta volunteers, and the public
UPS is an
excellent example of a model corporate partner. For years UPS
had enjoyed a partnership with Marshall Middle School. UPS sponsored
contests and provided incentive prizes, and employees volunteered
in a small mentoring program. With Hands On Atlanta's addition
as a partner with Marshall, the involvement of UPS volunteers
tripled. Hands On Atlanta takes responsibility for communicating
with teachers and parents to extend learning beyond the school
day, coordinating human and financial resources coming into the
school, training and supporting volunteers, and evaluating the
impact of volunteer-led programs. The UPS mentors and tutors knew
that their time at the school would be well spent and that their
contribution would be measured.
As I mentioned
earlier, there are lots of different levels at which volunteers
can become involved in the life of a school. If you come to one
of our partner schools on Saturday to paint lockers or build reading
lofts, you will take part in an orientation and quickly understand
that you are part of a much larger volunteer picture. You'll see
the Discovery program in full swing and learn that other corporate
volunteers, parents, and AmeriCorps members will be there all
week long to tutor kids and engage kids in service projects and
use the loft you built. This of course, will make you feel very
different about the contribution you're able to make in a single
day. And, if you choose, there are myriad ways for you to get
involved at a deeper level to make a difference in the life of
Atlanta's success is due to the incredible collection of well-coordinated
resources we bring to schoolscorporate funding and volunteer
tutors, AmeriCorps members, training for teachers, leadership
development programs and service opportunities for kids, a 25
percent increase in parent involvement. So it's not just one answernot
just a caring adult, or an after-school program, or individual
tutoring, or community support, or assistance for the teacher,
or workshops for parents. We work within the context of the school
experience. After all, that's where the kids are.
we're creating a sense of a reliable community through service,
one that anyone can tap into. Recently, I was driving down the
road in the neighborhood of Hands On Atlanta and I wanted to see
if the neighborhood kids knew where our offices were. I am always
curious to see if students have a sense of the resources and opportunities
in their own backyard. I rolled down the window and yelled, "Hey,
do you know where Hands on Atlanta is?" And a middle-school youth
replied, "Hands On Atlanta? It's everywhere, like the schools
and stuff." That answer was better than I could have hoped for.
Thank you very much, Jill. Our final witness on this second panel
is Paul Grogan, who is the president of the Local Initiatives
Support Corporation. Paul, the floor is yours.
Good morning, and it's a pleasure to be with you all this morning.
I have every
intention of providing, really, the required commercial for my
own organization in the course of these remarks. But I do want
to say, first, my essential mission, to bring what I think is
some good news to this Commission: that there is already an enormous
process of civic renewal under way in this country that we are
engaged in trying to build.
in perhaps the least likely of placesthe worst inner-city
communities of this country, places we used to call slums; and
it is being driven by the citizens of those communities. It has
labored in obscurity until very recently, but I think it is about
to burst on the scene as one of the hopeful and stunning and counterintuitive
developments that's occurred in the last twenty years in this
speaking of is variously called the community development movement
or the grassroots revitalization movement. And essentially it
consists now of thousands upon thousands of neighborhood and community
organizations that have been formed by the residents, usually
of specific neighborhoods or towns, to spearhead the revitalization
of those distressed communities in the absence of any successful
public effort that has occurred, and in the absence of any prospect
that they are going to be magically rescued by the private market
all by itself as well. There are two to three thousand of these
organizations, and they are already responsible for some of the
most stunning turnarounds that have occurred in the history of
And I think
the South Bronx, perhaps, is the most powerful laboratory of this
approach. The South Bronx was, and still is probably, universally
seen in this country as the ultimate terminus of urban blight.
Two American presidents went up there a while back and stood in
the rubble; the images were confirmed by novels and movies. So
if you asked someone in South Dakota to tell what they associate
with the South Bronx, I think you'd get a pretty clear image.
We enjoy taking people to the South Bronx today, because there
are square miles of stunning revitalization, and now a process
of significant public and private investment that has momentum
of its own. But it was all spearheaded in the gloomiest and darkest
and lowest days by a group of citizens' organizations, called
Community Development Corporations, who, counter to all received
wisdom and forecasts for the prospects of their neighborhood,
wanted to do something about it.
the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, is a private, nonprofit
company founded by foundations in corporate America about seventeen
years ago. Our mission is to build the capacity of such grassroots
revitalization efforts, and to speed the flow of private capital
into these communities. In our history, we have assembled about
two and a half billion dollars in private money, contributed,
lent, or invested through us by more than 1,500 corporations and
foundations. And we have used that capital to support the work
of more than a thousand of these community development corporations,
who, among other things, have built or renovated more than 70,000
homes and built or renovated more than 10 million square feet
of commercial space, again in some of the most damaged communities
in this country.
is often misunderstood as a housing or physical development movement.
True, housing and other development activities are a critical
vehicle for the development of this process of civic renewal;
but it is only its most surface consequence. Housing is desperately
needed in these communities; I don't want to minimize that for
a moment. But this is really operating on a number of other levels.
who form these organizations understand that physical blight depresses
everyonedepresses the prospects of their communities, serves
as a magnet for social pathologies like drugs and drug dealers,
and has a devastating impact on the morale of young people. So
they seek to reverse the very negative signals, the loudest negative
physical symbols that have existed in their communitiesabandoned
housing, abandoned cars, weed-filled empty lots, and so onby
beginning to restore the physical landscape. That, to them, is
far more important, actually, than the provision of housing per
se, because they understand the power of symbols.
they are a citizens' movement. They want to create stakeholders
who believe in the community, who will stay and work for its future.
And those stakeholders can be enlarged by visible victories, however
modest those initial victories are. On another level, they are
seeking to restore political power to these damaged communities,
small-p political power. We all understand, it's axiomatic, that
declining communities experience the withdrawal of public services.
In effect, the citizens in those communities have lost the capacity
to bargain effectively with the local jurisdiction. So the trash
doesn't get picked up, the police don't respond as quickly, park
improvements are not made, and so forth. And this is one of the
big negative multipliers that speeds communities on that downward
spiral. These renewal efforts, and the citizens behind them, have
a magical effect of beginning to again extract a response from
the public jurisdiction; so one begins to see, as if by magic,
park improvements, police response, a community being served again
and holding its own with its local political jurisdiction.
this is a very powerful strategy to break down the isolation,
the utter isolation, of many of these inner-city communities from
which mainstream institutions have withdrawn. People in the mainstream
of American life have little contact with these communities. Well,
these community development corporations, through undertaking
development, form lasting business relationships with banks, foundations,
local and state government, to draw in the necessary capital and
expertise initially to accomplish these concrete projects that
they set upon. But over time, they open up channels through which
ideas and capital can flow. And this breakdown of isolation, of
course, has much broader, positive consequences.
As I said,
this process is well under way. It's had a very quiet field test
for the last twenty years, and we can take you to city after city
in the country and give you an experience of jaw-dropping surprise.
Because what is going on these communities simply doesn't square
with the conventional wisdom or the image of cities that most
people who aren't in them haveimages which are powerfully
reinforced by the media every night with their emphasis on lurid
murders and broken families. And the media is going to take quite
enough pounding without my help at this sessionI can tell
from just hearing a little bit of the first one. But it is true
that particularly local newscasts in most cities focus relentlessly
on the negative, and news of this progress and phenomenon is only
slowly reaching the public.
not have been an altogether bad thingbecause it had an ability
to get its legs under it, to get a substantial body of accomplishment
under its belt, without being subjected either to excessive expectations,
or too much money too fast. So the achievements of these thousands
of organizations are built on a very solid foundation of modest
steps successfully undertaken, and then built upon from there.
they succeeding and growing and exhibiting all this vitality,
when the conventional wisdom says this shouldn't be happening?
I think they display four attributes that resonate in the American
soul and imagination, and that is why they are succeeding. First,
it's a pure expression of self-help. Self-help is a universally
held American value, and this is powerful self-help at work. Second,
this all proceeds by partnership. These groups are not asking
the government to do it alone, although the government is critical.
Private capital has been at work here from the beginning, with
the discipline that that brings.
focus relentlessly on tangible accomplishments, even laughably
modest ones, at the outset: Could we fix up a house? Could we
get that drug dealer off the corner? and so forth. But it is the
tangible result that provides the assurance that this is worth
pursuing. And finally, they display that high-octane fuel of America,
optimism, in the most unlikely places. They really shouldn't be
optimistic, particularly when they start; and if they sought the
counsel of any urban expert, the counsel they would get was, "Don't
bother. What you want to do is all very laudable, but you can't
possibly make a difference, because there are giant forces operating
on your community. Don't you understand?" And fortunately, these
thousands of citizens either did not seek that counsel or did
not listen to it when they got it, because they have proceeded
to create an enormous movement in this country.
help this? I think one of the things that would help it is if
it were more widely known. If people in communities like these
who haven't started a process knew that people just like themselves,
in their church or on their block or neighbors in similar circumstances,
had achieved what they have achieved, I think we could accelerate
what already is a kind of contagion that is going on. We also
need to make larger investments in these communities. This isn't
smoke and mirrors; we need public dollars and private dollars
to make these communities better. And so this is a kind of critique
of government implicit in what I'm saying, but government remains
vital. Thank you for having me.
Thank you very much, Paul, not only for your testimony but for
the more than ordinary efforts that you've made to be with us
today. We're grateful for that. Senator Nunn, the first question
Jill, I'd like to ask you about the relationship between the new
organization when you all started and existing nonprofits. How
did you go about that relationship, and what are you doing now
in terms of working with existing non-profits, and which ones?
We work with 78 agencies in which we have 250 ongoing projects
every month, every day of the year. The agencies and issues we
support with well-trained volunteers include homeless shelters,
17 schools with a range of programs, conservation projects, meal,
furniture and tool-sorting programs, senior centers, literacy
programs, and refuge centers. The Atlanta Community Food Bank
was a huge supporter at the beginning when we began working initially
with nonprofits to understand and meet their volunteer needs.
On Atlanta started, the United Way Volunteer Center (then called
Volunteer Atlanta) and the Junior League were the primary players
on the volunteer scene. The Junior League is a member organization,
all women, with very strict requirements. What Hands On Atlanta
had to offer was flexible and inclusive, and we were only asking
for people's time, not their money or influence. Plus, our volunteer
work focuses exclusively on direct service that meets a critical
need, not fund-raisers or special events. We are very different
organizations and enjoy a good relationship.
Center's approach at that time was to match individuals with agencies.
A potential volunteer calls the Center and is mailed information
about 4-5 agencies which seem a good match. It is up to the individual
to call the agency and get involved. Neither the United Way nor
the potential agency follows up to see if the individual ever
called the agency, actually volunteered, was satisfied with the
experience or became a long-term volunteer. The Volunteer Center
doesn't keep records to track the number of volunteers who actually
follow through with an agency.
Atlanta requires potential volunteers to attend an orientation
and gain an approach to volunteering. We track volunteer hours
and volunteer impact, and provide extensive and varied opportunities
for learning and leadership. When we got started eight years ago,
I don't think anyone realized the potential impact of a flexible,
diverse menu of volunteer projects available from one source,
coupled with limitless opportunities for leadership and learning
in a community of volunteers.
Atlanta's focus was to support volunteers, create volunteer-led
opportunities to serve, build a community of volunteers, create
an environment conducive to learning from one another, and measure
the impact of citizen engagement both in terms of trees planted
and kids tutored as well as lives changed.
the Volunteer Center has considered abandoning their matching
program and referring people to Hands On Atlanta. As you know,
the United Way is making some important changes nationally. The
Metro Atlanta Volunteer Center is reviewing their mission and
determining their niche. They will most likely focus on promoting
volunteerism among their donors and creating ways to better recognize
and celebrate community volunteers.
Tom, what has been your experience in terms of the length of mentorship
that is required for a productive relationship with positive results?
How long, and what kind of continuity, is required?
Well, we think you start with a commitment of one year. And it
takes a few months before the bonding really takes place, if that's
what you're saying. But you know, one of the things that's very
important to realize is, you don't have to be a super person or
a special person to be an effective volunteer. The research that's
been done by PPV again shows that volunteers who are there, who
are consistent, who are listening, who are supportive, are much
more likely to be successful than those who come in with a prescription
for what they'd like to see happen to a particular kid. And it's
that ongoing, consistent supportand we think it should be
for more than a yearwhere it really begins to pay off.
Do you find some of the mentors really are willing to stay with
the young person three or four years?
Oh yes, yes. The average is 2.7, so that means many more are longer
than that. We stop counting once you get through high school;
but we have, of course, many people throughout our organization
who still maintain the relationships that they started as Bigs.
The floor is now open for questions from the Commissioners.
We're here with the Commission because we are concerned about
the future of our democratic society. Without getting into any
of the words that tick us off here, I think we want to know, learn
something about, how to regenerate the constructive substance
of our lives together in a society that is increasingly diverse
and increasingly inequitable. What makes our lives together work
for everyone, and what makes it meaningful? You bring us good
news. Clearly what you do affects people within a certain range
in a positive way. You yourselves are to be commended for your
commitment to this.
What do you think would be the tipping factors that will enable
what you door what a lot of us in this country are doing
that's good and that affects peopleto tip the scales: to
make the broader community have a sense that there is a future
for our unique type of democracy and that it can work for all
of our children and for all of us? How do we make these good,
small enterprises have a much more far-reaching effect? What will
it take to make them have a tipping factor?
And I ask
this because I have worked in my field of supporting good things
for over twenty years; and yet the sense of trust, and that things
work for everyone, has gone downhill. So more and more, I think
we're looking at how can we affect things in a larger way that
will effect that tip? And in that connection, all of you here
are doing good work and I commend you. But in fact, you are all
from the majority community here. Why do we not see any representation
here from the groups that we are concerned about in terms of their
equitable participation in the society?
Well, I'm as puzzled as others about the poor morale of our society
today. I don't fully understand it. We are ending what has become
known as the American Century with our values and our system being
emulated around the world. It seems to me that we should be celebrating,
even as we seek the sources of renewing our own experiment; and
we're not. We're awfully gloomy about our prospectsI think,
deeply affected by, as I said, daily contact with this process
taking place in some of the worst places. And so it does tend
to make you an optimist. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that
we . . . There is a cycle at work here. We had a certain set of
ideas about how to make things better, how to extend opportunity
in this society. And those ideas have run their course. And we're
in a period of ambiguity, of transition to a new set of values.
And there are various caricatures of that being offered, about
what that new set of values is going to be: It's going to be all
private; it's going to be this; it's going to be all community.
And I think the needed synthesis has not been performed at the
national level in a way that's going to get the necessary attention.
But I believe that that will occur if we can continue to set in
motion these kinds of activities and growth.
Just to pick up on that. I'm glad to see . . . This is the first
time this morning that the issue of race has been even raised.
I thought it was amazing in its absence in the first session,
frankly. And the point I'd like to make is, again, it depends
on who you invite to participate. You're the Commissioners. I'm
the chief paid functionary of our organization, so I felt I ought
to be here. But I could have an African-American Big Brother,
a Latino Big Brother, someone else to speak.
issue of what kinds of approaches are most needed in order for
us to think in a more, in a larger scope, and really have larger
impact. From my little perspectiveand again, we've got a
program, we're not social philosophersbut I think that from
my perspective, this is what the summit has helped us to think
about: developing strategic alliances focused on important issues.
And if you look at the five resources the summit represents, caring
adults is one, giving back in service is one. And I didn't mention
in my presentation that one of our commitments to the summit is
to get every one of our relationships, the Big and the Little
together, engaged in community service through the year 2000which
I think is a powerful kind of empowering experience. But they're
also talking about marketable skills and safe places and constructive
activities and a healthy start.
we're trying to do through the spirit of the summit is to find
ways that groups and organizations can really collaborate around
these issues. And I think, of course, that has to happen at the
local community. That's where the rubber hits the road. And unless
we find a way to have strategic alliances, I think a lot of the
good ideas, as you said, are just going to go away. We're very
serious about wanting to not only export our program but to adapt
it to different situations and different kinds of organizational
auspicein church auspice. So that's, I guess, the best I
can say in terms of our thoughts about how to move forward.
The goal of the City Cares Network is to support fledgling groups
in cities and towns around
the nation committed to the City Cares model. Hands On has grown
from 12 to 13,000 volunteers in eight years, contributing 263,000
of hours in direct service in 1996. The "tipping factor" is Hands
On Atlanta's approach to introducing people to the Atlanta community.
We give individual citizens, youth groups, and corporate teams
a strong beginninga reasonable first step, an opportunity
to work as a team, understand the critical issues through direct
service experiences, and consider what their unique contribution
just might be.
I also think
that there is a huge point to be made about young people and adults
working in partnership. That is certainly a tipping factor. There's
a lot of work to be done. The youth are ready. Are the adults
prepared to give these kids a voice? So few nonprofits take the
talents, compassion, and energy of young people seriously. Fewer
still have developed the skills and capacity to connect kids and
adults in meaningful learning and service. A program at HOA that
I am particularly proud of is called TeamWorks With Youth. Imagine
young people and adults, corporate executives and kids, parents
and children, considering their community's needs, developing
service projects, and serving side by side. Young people begin
to see that adults care and have a few redeeming qualities, and
adults see firsthand the assets of youth. Working in partnership,
believing that everyone has a unique gift worth sharing, will
certainly serve us well over time.
Jill, you mentioned that the act of volunteering has an effect
of changing something about the volunteer. And I wondered if you
could elaborate, by way of an example, the kind of thing you're
talking about. And then I'd like to inquire of Tom whether the
experience of Big Brothers and Big Sisters is some fundamental
change, perhaps in outlook, that volunteering brings you.
Your question brings up an important point. While Hands On Atlanta
has been able to create a well-oiled machine for coordinating
efforts, the real success is seen in the relationships made and
hopes renewed. People keep coming back because they begin to feel
a part of the larger community. They become committed. I guess
the biggest evidence of changed lives is that thousands of volunteers
come to a project once, see that they have a unique contribution
to make and even more to learn, and come back again. There's a
quote by Kurt Hahn that goes something like this: "It is wrong
to coerce people into opinions. It is a duty to impel them into
of reciprocal service and building community through one-on-one
relationships is nothing new under the sun. Hands On Atlanta's
contribution is simply that we are helping a lot more peoplethousands
each yearto make a first step. It's a matter of scale, I
suppose. Just about every one I know has their own story about
how their life has been enriched, their friendships broadened,
their assumptions challenged, their respect for differences increased,
or their hopes renewed.
came to Hands On Atlanta as a 21-year-old mother of four. She
spent a year in public service as an AmeriCorps member at one
of our elementary partner schools. She saw firsthand that her
students were suffering because their parents were not involved
in the life of the school. She took a close look at her own involvement
as a mother of four. The very next year, at age 22, while working
and going to school, she became the PTA President at her own child's
school. A year with Hands On Atlanta AmeriCorpsa new view
and an opportunity to contribute and learnled to what I
am certain will be a lifetime of volunteer leadership. She's quite
an inspiration and actually carried the Olympic Torch on behalf
of Hands On Atlanta last summer.
comes to mind, too. This successful architect has been volunteering
as a school captainvolunteer principalfor a number
of years. Next year he'll pursue a Master's in Middle Grades education
and a life of teaching. Now that is quite a switch. I know dozens
of Davids who have made decisions to join the nonprofit and public
sectors as teachers, youth workers, and nonprofit administrators
as a result of their volunteer experience.
I am a good example, too. I started volunteering with Hands On
Atlanta three years ago and last year I chaired the board of directors.
Now, I definitely don't have the experience to govern a not-for-profit
organization with a $3,000,000 budget. Just like the other 1,600
volunteers who serve in leadership roles, I learned by doing.
And I was humbled, challenged, and rewarded beyond my wildest
imagination. Hands On Atlanta, thanks in large part to our executive
director, Michelle Nunn, is an environment that encourages risk-taking
and visioning and getting outside your comfort zone.
candidly explain that opportunities to explore new talents, learn
from the expertise of others, try out leadership roles, and be
creative and entrepreneurial are more available to them through
Hands On Atlanta than in their "day jobs." One newly trained project
coordinator for one of our Senior Center projects recently told
me, "I've always loved spending time with the seniors, but I wanted
to take on this new responsibility to develop some leadership
skills. I want to look for a better job, and I know this experience
will help me grow."
Hands On opens people's eyes to how the community works. Through
direct participation, volunteers confront the city's problems
and enhance their awareness of the city's needs. This involvement
does more than introduce them to the needs and assets of Atlanta's
inner city. Volunteers become educated about the nonprofit sector
and charitable infrastructure. They become more conscious of the
organizations that fill the gap that the government and marketplace
can't. On some level, Hands On Atlanta puts the world of nonprofits
on citizens' "radar screens."
Probably the best example I could give is, whenever we have meetings
and we ask Big Brothers and Big Sisters, or even focus groups,
to talk about their relationships, invariably the first thing
they'll say is, "I get more out of this than I give." And they'll
talk about the mutuality that's in the process. And to me, that's
what makes volunteering so special. The kids know that that's
a volunteer, too. They can walk, and they know that the adult
the Big, in our casedoesn't have to be doing this.
So it creates a dynamic that is exciting and energizing. That's
what we're trying to convert, if we can, into this notion of advocates
for positive youth development, which is the trick. Can we get
our volunteers to be thinking more broadly about citizenship and
engagement around the issues that have an impact on the environment
of that young person? Or will we blow our approach by making it
too prescriptive? That's what we're struggling with now. If we
can get the energy that's in those volunteers focused more broadly
on citizenship as it relates to their being a Big Brother/Big
Sister . . . that's what we're trying to look at, to see what
we can do.
Yes, two questions and a comment. We heard from other witnesses
that children at risk in these communities are already faced with
insecurity of relationships that are temporaryin and out
of their lifeand what they need is stability. And we have
heard, from Boys and Girls Clubs and others, that the average
volunteer stays around about 2.7 years. And so the question about
that. And also, you mentioned a public/private ventures study,
where they isolated having a Big Brother. If you would look at
other studies, they would find that church attendance of kids
in those communities would also produce the same consequences
as well. So that's something for consideration.
And I guess
some discussion I'd like to hear among the panel is that when
we started our poverty programs, it was implemented without serious
examination of the basic assumptions. Because it was armed with
good intentions, the assumption is, it would produce positive
and meaningful results. And my fear is that we're entering the
same era with volunteerismwe're allowing it to proceed because
it is armed with good intentions. And I fear that there is a tension
between what Paul Grogan was talking about, as far as effectiveness
in revitalizing communities, and what I'm hearing from the other
two witnesses, who are talking about an army of volunteers coming
in. And the prospect of a landing pad versus parachuting scares
me to death. So I would like to have that discussed.
And a footnote
to that is, I was one of those that was critical of the event,
and I spoke at the plenary sessionnot critical of the intentions,
but just to try to introduce a word of caution. When I talk about
4,000 volunteers going, being recruited to go down Germantown
AvenueI'm from Philadelphiaand painting off graffiti,
with cameras there and celebrating this great victory, go back
there now and you'll see the graffiti has been replaced. By contrast,
you have in southeast Washington here, one of the most dangerous
neighborhoods, Benning Terrace public housing, where the lives
of concerned men, eight men, who have been volunteering out of
their own pockets, their own time, for six years in these troubled
neighborhoods, were able to negotiate a truce between warring
gangs. And these 30 young men were recruited to remove graffiti
at a cost of $6.50 an hour. And if you go out there now, you will
see that not only is the graffiti removed, but children are playing
and the community is on its way, as Paul was saying, of being
revitalized. So there is a tension between, Where do we invest
our money? And if it's not either/or, then where is that point
of tension? Because to date, not a single corporation, foundation,
has stepped up to the plate and said, "We enjoy this peace, and
therefore we're going to invest in this." Not a single investment
has been made, except on the public side with the housing; we
see not a single foundation or corporation said, "There's peace
in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city, and therefore
we want to see it sustained." But if a General Powell were to
show up with an army of volunteers, he could receive support for
that. Would you all speak to that?
Good, Bob, there's quite a few questions there. Let me start off
with, we're Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, not Boys and
Girls Clubs. A lot of people make that mistake. (You mentioned
Boys and Girls Clubs.)
thing to say about the summit is, personally, I don't think that
cleaning graffiti on Germantown Avenue was the best project to
select, and I certainly will hope that the summit's not going
to be judged on that. I hope what the summit will be judged on
is the fact there were close to a hundred mayors that were there;
there were governors; there were delegations that are going to
go back into their communities and craft approaches to help relate
to these five basic resources. The proof is going to be in the
pudding; but I think a lot of energy was created there. And I
know in terms of our organization, we're very interested.
But we can't
talk about "armies of volunteers" in sort of an abstraction. Basically,
we have to talk about what's needed in communities. What I tried
to say in my presentation was that we're very interested in working
in communities across America where we're not now, with underserved
populations. We feel that we're part of those communities, because
of the involvement of the moms and of the children themselves
in the service. And we want to get more involvedwe want
to get more involved through some of the organizations that I
As far as
studies go, let me just caution you. Frankly, I don't know, maybe
you could cite one. If there was a study that was done with a
control group about church, where there were the young people,
and with an exact same groupyou go to church, you don'tand
then with some measurement after 18 months to see what the impact
was . . . if that's been done, then that's fine. But that's basically
what happened here. There's a lot of talk about research out there,
but this was with a real control group. And most social programs
don't want to lend themselves to that. And you can understand
why: with the experiment that went on down south with black GIs,
you know, you're denying someone the opportunity to get a service.
We're able to do it because we have long waiting listsat
least to think it through in terms of its impact. But the research,
to me, is very significant that shows that our program works.
And we have a responsibility, knowing that, to try to expand it
and develop new ways for it to continue on to work, to put hope
in the lives of children.
Can I ask for a quick clarification? What's your waiting list
for, kids or volunteers? Do you have a shortage of volunteers?
Yes. Not for kids.
Got it. How big is it?
It's a little over 40,000 right now.
Across the country, yes. It could be three times that if we didn't
close down waiting lists after a period of time. There's a tremendous
interest in the program among people in communities.
May I just comment on something Bob said? Everybody's saying it's
not either/or. But I think you have to grant Bob Woodson's point:
that there isn't anything like the discussion going on today about
how do we identify and recruit and build the capacity of leaders
in these communities? There isn't anything like that kind of a
discussion going on, compared to the discussion about voluntarism
and doing for otherswhich we all think is terribly important.
But something is really being missed here, in view of the substantial
hidden record of successes that we can all talk about, when local
leaders come together and chart their own course. Because there's
nothing more powerful than that.
an outside entity. And communities need connections to expertise
and capital, and that's what we think we're bringing. But we're
bringing it on the basis of, we will not work in a community unless
we're doing it through a local organization that we think is legitimate
and is accountable to that community. And building those kinds
of leaders is a big, big job, too. And we're not talking about
Actually, I'd like to think we are talking about it. We work with
agencies that are well-managed and respected in their communities
and public schools with visionary principals and a clear plan.
When organizations call on Hands On Atlanta for volunteer support,
we work together to ensure that volunteer support includes strong
representation from the community served. We are reactive in that
senseresponding to stated needs of community agencies and
working in partnership with schools to create an action plan that
furthers the school's annual and long-term goals.
our work with young people is centered on cultivating service-oriented
leaders for the future, giving students an opportunity to serve
and make a difference in their neighborhood, and helping kids
utilize and capitalize on community assets. Through our partnership
with the Children's Museum, high school students conduct walking
tours of their community, gather oral histories and pass their
learning on to 2nd and 3rd graders. This helps build community
I agree that this is a very important discussion, and I would
like to push you to think further. I would like to draw a distinction
between local volunteers and local politicians. And I do that
because of your remarkable story about the South Bronx. Thirty
years ago, New York City decentralized its school administration.
And the pendulum is swinging back, and the central administration
is taking back more of the power for the conduct of the school
system. And that is because the local school systems became vehicles
for individual political leaders to exercise a monopoly. And so
the sharing of political power, it seems to me, in the educational
arena, prompted individuals to see power as an end in itself,
and local school boards actually became a vehicle for keeping
people out of sharing responsibility for local education rather
than bringing them in.
why I draw the distinction between volunteers and politicians.
I am struck by the degree to which local inhabitants participate
in the revitalization of their community life, and I wonder if
there is any value to the distinction between volunteers and politicians.
The South Bronx was revitalized through an extraordinary coalition
that included governmentcity and federal governmentbut
it brought in a large number of local organizations that were
not politically oriented but rather oriented toward revitalization.
One way I like to describe this phenomenon of revitalization is
that these community organizations manufacture good governmentbecause
they give government very different choices than it would otherwise
have for its conduct and investment in communities. And they are
hostile to bureaucratic systems. They're very pro public investment,
and they believe in a vigorous public sector in that sense; and
I think that's with a sense of how this country was built. But
they're very hostile to the bureaucratic systems.
And in fact,
if you look at the major barriers to the progress of these groups,
even in the South Bronx and other areas where there's been dramatic
progress, the big public resources have been tied up in systems
that have been very difficult for these groups to affect: the
welfare system, public schools, and public housing. Now, these
public systems are nowbelatedly, in my viewundergoing
very significant transformation, which is going to lift the limits
of the possible in these cities. And it's a very exciting prospect
to imagine that we are moving to a degree where citizen impact
could be magnified very much greater than it's been. Because everything
that's been done up until very recently, these groups have been
flying in the face of a very stiff head wind: in terms of those
bureaucratic systems, and in terms of some macro trends, in terms
of crime and drugs, and so forth. And the wind is a little bit
at their backs now. So I think it's an exciting period.
My comments are going to be an elaboration. These are three very
good presentations, and I want to say a word about the one I know
most about, which is the community development movement. And I
think it would be good for us to reflect on as we think about
what's going on in the country. What are the lessons and what
are the paradoxes?
This movement, which has an accomplishment in America's central
cities unlike any other one by any other sector over the past
20 years very interesting factwas embraced, for these
20 years, neither by conventional liberalism nor conventional
conservatism. Very interesting. What is the lesson of that?
It took twenty-plus years. That's something we Americans don't
seem very good atunderstanding the time horizon of things
that work, things that endure, things that have to do with values
and standards as well as bricks and mortar. Graffiti can come
back in a day. Once you've reintroduced social standards back
into a neighborhood, they endure. And that's what the community
development movement is really about. Not those housing projects:
it's about the social standards that built them and maintain them
and knit the families on those blocks and in those housing developments
to get them.
all: The media didn't get it and, by and large, still doesn't
get it. What is the lesson of that? You find for me, where is
the coverage of the community development movement in this countrya
success this spectacular? Now because the media hasn't gotten
it and doesn't get it, by and large, for most Americans, including
most politicians, it hasn't happened. Fascinating. What is the
lesson of that?
all: It is, to me, a lesson, as Paul has underlined very dramatically,
in partnership among the sectors. It does not yield very well
to axiomatic statements about, "The private market should do everything"
or "Government has to be cut back automatically." What it's about
is about finding different roles for each of the three major sectors
in our society: private, public and non-profit. And that's where
it worked. And that is a much more subtle task. But it's a task
to which the most important stance and attitude to bring is partnership
and openness to new roles. Those are some of the lessons and paradoxes
that I think are important.
I decided to make this an elaboration rather than a question,
I got to yield and you guys get equal time on that.
You said it.
Just agree, I think.
Two kind of different questions. For Big Brothers and Big Sisters:
You've kept bringing up this idea of, I think you called it "advocacy
for youth development." And that does seem like that would be
a very significant change. I also remembered someone on the last
panela school principal, a school headmastersaid,
teaching kids about social justice, that at a certain point, there
is something which is right, true, good. And I can understand,
I think, why you're struggling with, Do we now ask our volunteers
to start to move in that direction? But I'd like to know a little
bit more about that struggle, as my first question. (And I'll
hold my second question; it's more for the other two.) But that's
very interesting to me.
Good. Well, let me tell you how we're approaching it. Because
it's not . . . Advocacy, unfortunately, is a loaded term; it takes
on lots of different meanings. But if you're familiar with the
Search Institute's model of assets that are needed in a community
or in an individual, we're looking at those. And five of them
are what the summit represents, in the five resources. And we're
thinking of ways that we can help our volunteers to look at what's
in their community: Which assets do they have? Which do they need?
And how does that really directly impact on the life of the young
person that they're mentoring?as a way of beginning to get,
in essence, our volunteers to think about having an impact as
citizens as being very important in what they're doing. So what
we're trying to do is begin to identify, in a non-charged, non-political,
non-, if you will, advocacy way, volunteers in thinking really
about citizenship. Because we think that there's so much that
they have to contribute if they really do focus more of their
energies in this area.
Is it nonpolitical or non-partisan? I understand why you're running
from it. But at a certain point you're talking about, as someone
said, how power is distributed, how dollars are distributed, who
Yes, yes. No, I wouldn't shy away from that. I think ultimately
that is what happens. And if we had . . . for example, if you
had a way where we could connect with hundreds of thousands of
volunteers across the country and they were to say, you know,
in one month, for example, here are the issues that affected Johnny
or Sally that we think are important, this is authentic reporting.
What's happening, I think, in our society is the people who are
engaged in advocacy either are paid functionaries or they're people
who are clients' groups. And kids don't vote, so there's no client
group there. You can count us as advocates, you know, because
of the paid workers. So how do you get into a new . . . Everybody
talks about wanting to get to a new citizen source. Here you got
one that's already volunteering; they're committed, they're connected
with young people on a regular basis. So what an opportunity to
make a natural transition. But as you point out, it's a challenge
as to how to do it so it doesn't just become rhetoric or it doesn't
just become something that really doesn't work.
Thanks a lot. The second question may apply to Big Brothers/Big
Sisters, but I'd be interested in what role, if any, AmeriCorps
members play in the organizations that you work in. I should say,
It's a loaded question from my perspective, because we train a
couple of hundred AmeriCorps members and place them to work in
their own communities to provide service. But I'd be interested
from different perspectives, what role they play and how you feel
about the benefits or the negatives from having AmeriCorps members
involved, if they are involved at all in your efforts, nationally
Well, we have used AmeriCorps. We do use it. But we've used it
very differently, in the sense that we have used it to recruit
individuals out of these communities in which we're working and
getting them hooked up with the organizations in those communities,
as opposed to having them come from outside and go in. And in
that sense, it's become a significant human capital strategy for
us: identifying most young, most minority people from those communities
who don't really know about this, don't really understand the
opportunities that may be there in community revitalization work.
And it's been very powerful. Just to use one statistic: 40 percent
of the AmeriCorps people we have had end up getting hired into
permanent jobs with those community organizations. So we applaud
that. And if the program were even more flexible than it's been,
I think you could increase it, to direct it at least partially
at what we've been talking about here, which is the need to create
opportunities for people in those communities as well as people
to come in from outside.
Hands On Atlanta uses AmeriCorps members to leverage additional
volunteers in the schools. We actually have the largest AmeriCorps
program in the Southeast, and we are one of the few volunteer
service organizations to have that resource. These 100 full-time
public servants allow us to think on a much higher level and larger
scale about how to maximize academic achievement and citizenship
development among youth through the effective use of volunteers.
members are absolutely a cross-section of a community. More than
25 percent of them come directly from the communities where they're
serving. A number of them attended the schools where they now
serve. Many go on to pursue teaching careers.
is multi-faceted. Teams of 4-10 AmeriCorps members are in each
of our schools full-time. They act as teacher assistants, run
the after-school program, provide an infrastructure and mechanism
that uses corporate and community volunteers effectively. In 1996
Hands On Atlanta AmeriCorps members provided over 90,000 hours
of tutoring assistance to 2,790 students, They engaged 41 percent
of the student body in after-school programming on a daily basis.
Over a three-year period, schools served by Hands On Atlanta AmeriCorps
volunteers showed an 11 percent increase on standardized test
scores and a average of 25 percent decrease in incidents of discipline.
Teacher attendance is up and parent participation has increased
in these schools.
I wanted to ask some specific questions about the Big Brothers
Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Big Brothers Big Sisters. (I was using shorthand verbiage.) You
say you have a 40,000 waiting list, and that you have a shortage
of people over 40. Did I hear you correctly? What you described
as seniorswhich I'll try not to take personally. I'd like
to ask some specific questions about that. Number one, what numbers
are Big Brothers and what numbers are Big Sisters that are on
that waiting list? Do you have more of a shortage of Big Sisters
or Big Brothers? Second, what's the minimum age to become a Big
Brother or a Big Sister? What's the maximum age? Do you have any
ideas as to why you do not have more over-40s who are involved?
Do you have a requirement, or an encouragement, of matching race
and ethnicity or not? And if you do, does that increase the waiting
list? And if you do have it, why do you have it?
Good. I should have been taking all those questions down. I think
I've got most of them, because they're familiar questions. But
which one should I start with? If you're talking about the . .
. probably your last questions about the senior citizens. I think
there is some ageism in the way we've portrayed our program and
gotten it across. I mean, you tend to think . . . even the name,
Big Brother/Big Sister, has not been as effective in getting our
message across to older people. And we have several initiatives
under way now to try to do a much better job to recruit volunteers
from the over-40 population. And there's no limit to how old someone
can be to be a Big Brother/Big Sister. But that's taking some
internal cultural changes.
Is there a minimum age?
To be a Big Bother Big Sister, it depends on the city. Generally,
the old paradigm was, you have to be out of high school. But the
new paradigm is . . . one of our most popular programs, in over
90 cities, is using high school students as Bigs, which is a terrific
service kind of connection, in school-based settings. So that's
what's happening in terms of the age. It's going down, and hopefully
we can get people that are older and younger, to really get more
of who's on our waiting lists: The children are on our waiting
listsnot the Big Brothers and Big Sistersare predominantly
male, but there are lots of young girls that need our service.
In terms of the percentage, our service is about 50-50, amazingly
close to 50-50.
talk about race, the race of the Big versus the child: That's
something that's discussed with the parent. And that's something
. . . We have a bias: we believe that it is important to get same
race, especially with younger children. Our focus is on the 10-to-12
year old age group. That's where the second largest number of
changes are taking place, physiologically and every other way,
and when kids growing up in that age period really need a caring
adultin terms of getting their own identity, of who they
are and what they can become. And we think it is important to
have same race. We're not able to get it as often as we'd like.
And that's why the kids who are waiting to be matched . . . Unfortunately,
about 50 percent of the kids that are waiting to be matched are
of color; in the total numbers of kids we serve throughout the
country, a little over 30 percent are people of color. So that
presents a challenge for us, in terms of targeting our recruitment
more effectively. Right now we are developing partnerships with
groups, as I mentioned, like the One Hundred Black Men, Alpha
Pi Alpha. We'd like to do more with unions. Did that touch on
all your questions?
I'm going to pass. I would say, I know Tom from my previous work
at United Way of America, and his organization does wonderful
I would like to ask Jill a couple of questions. I'm having a little
trouble imagining what the clearinghouse does. Does it do things
like thisand maybe I should just know this, but I'm having
trouble with it. Say the Atlanta Symphony is putting on a benefit
concert or something like that. They need somebody to put out
Okay. And could you give me some more instances of things you'd
say no to, things you'd say yes to?
Absolutely. We do direct service only.
What do you mean, direct service?
Volunteers choose from a wide array of projects addressing needs
expressed by the community. Projects focus on issues of homelessness,
education and mentoring, the environment, the needs of senior
citizens, home renovation, urban gardening, and many other areas.
We support the volunteer needs of close to 80 agencies and schools.
When I say direct service, I mean that volunteers are actually
involved in the larger community getting things done, versus raising
the money to get things done or advocating for policies.
In our community-based
projects we recruit, train, and support the volunteers who work
with an existing program or initiative of an agency. Nonprofits
are quite creative. I understand that they may get up to one third
of their work accomplished through volunteer help. But few schools
have a track record in using volunteers strategically to increase
student success. In our school-based projects Hands On Atlanta
works in partnership with schools and corporations to design,
manage. And evaluate volunteer-staffed programs, in addition to
providing the volunteer power to do the work.
also add that we work hard to offer opportunities for direct service
that are appropriate for families with young children. For example,
our Citizen Guide will tell you that the Sprouts and Vines Community
Gardening Project is well-suited for elementary-aged kids and
their parents. Not surprisingly, the volunteer who took the lead
on developing that project and recruiting other volunteers is
a young mother with a commitment to family volunteerism.
So if somebody has a need just for a day, some kind of a bake
sale, you don't supply those needs?
No. It's always ongoing projects managed by volunteer project
coordinators. A volunteer makes the commitment to be the link
between the agency and Hands On Atlanta. What you see in The Citizen
are projects that are happening over time. Some projectslike
sorting foodwork fine if a different group of folks show
up every time. Other projectsmentoring, for examplerequire
a long-term commitment. We work in partnership with agencies and
set up an agreement. If we recruit 10 volunteers for a Saturday
renovation project, it is critical that there is enough work for
10 people to do. The agencies also work with Hands On Atlanta's
volunteer project coordinators to determine what kind for training
or expertise or ongoing commitment is required, if any.
So over time, while it's always an ongoing relationship with an
agency, it may be a different project with the agency. But you
keep going back.
And we're adding projects all the time. For example, last month
a woman who had been volunteering with the meal program at the
Children's Shelter wanted to start a Read With Me Hour for the
kids. She attended a Hands On Atlanta Project Coordinator 101
Training, the project was listed in The Citizen to recruit volunteers,
we helped her with the supplies she needed, and now the program
is in full swing every Thursday afternoon.
I read somewhere, I think I read, that there was a program in
Atlanta, if not in some other cities, where food merchants have
gotten together with bread and so forth, which has to be used
within a certain time. Now, would your volunteers help set up
a distribution network for that for homeless shelters?
I am aware of the program you are talking aboutAtlanta's
Table, through the Atlanta Community Food Bank. We have a long-standing
relationship with the Food Bank. We support their food-sorting
program and they supply snacks for our after-school program. I
do not know if we are working with Atlanta's Table, specifically.
And the homeless. Do you have a program to help homeless people
find medical care, for example?
I don't know the answer to that question. We certainly work with
a number of programs that serve the homeless, and some volunteers
may be doing work to connect people to resources. Certainly, if
a potential volunteer leader or agency approached us with a plan
for assisting in that area, Hands On Atlanta would engage in a
conversation to consider how volunteers could help and what the
commitment might look like. We may not be able to get an infinite
number of additional long-term mentors, but we may be able to
surround enough people with the resources that are needed and
have them know that there are single organizations that can help
them know where to go that it's going to make a difference.
. . In the Citizen Schools, we find kids who really think that
when they grow up it's all going to be great, and they're going
to get to go to college, and they're going to do all these things.
And they haven't a clue what the steps are to get there. And so
I think that, again, what we're trying to do is help moms to do
what they can, have absolute leverage to coordinate these efforts,
but also bringing people in who can do certain pieces, to help
with test scores and help them connect in any way over the long
That, I believe, is the end of the second panel, right on time.
Back to Panel One
Forward to Panel Three