Miami — Today, over a thousand Volunteer Florida volunteers and AmeriCorps Members gathered at the Miami Beach Convention Center for a massive service project and nationwide ceremony to mark the 20th Anniversary of both Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps.
“Today, we filled 1200 backpacks with school supplies for students, filled 900 “emergency pillowcase kits” with supplies for kids experiencing disasters, compiled 6000 hygiene kits for women in domestic violence shelters, and compiled 1,000 care packages for veterans,” said Chester Spellman, CEO of Volunteer Florida. “We can’t think of a better way to commemorate 20 years of service in the Sunshine State than by hosting a historic project in Miami to benefit thousands of families, students, and veterans in Florida.”
In 1993, President Clinton signed legislation creating AmeriCorps to connect Americans of all ages and backgrounds with opportunities to give back to their communities and their nation. The Florida Legislature created Volunteer Florida in 1994 to administer AmeriCorps in Florida; since the first class of AmeriCorps members began serving in 1994, more than 24,000 individuals residents have served 25 million hours through AmeriCorps, with over $30 million in scholarship money invested at Florida colleges and universities.
Brad Meltzer, bestselling author and co-author of the AmeriCorps Pledge, addressed the 1000 AmeriCorps members in the crowd immediately before a nationwide ceremony was delivered via live-stream from the White House.
Meltzer said, “As the co-author of the AmeriCorps Pledge, it was an honor to be part of a nationwide, simultaneous swearing-in of AmeriCorps members taking place in every state on the same day. We are truly celebrating service today: thanks to Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps, we are serving neighborhoods across Florida in schools, providing disaster services, fostering economic opportunity, assisting veterans and military families, preserving the environment, and expanding health services.”
Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, was a special guest at the event.
“Volunteer Florida’s AmeriCorps members work with some of our most at-risk students and their families, mentoring and tutoring them during and after school, helping them graduate,” Superintendent Carvalho said. “In 2013-2014, nearly 600 AmeriCorps members worked with approximately 27,678 students in our schools, while engaging an additional 2,656 community volunteers. Collectively, they contributed nearly 23,000 community service hours dedicated to our students. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Carlos A. Gimenez, Mayor of Miami-Dade County, said, “Today’s celebration of 20 years of service by both Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps is a fantastic way to highlight the impact of service, thank those who serve, and most importantly, inspire more residents to get involved in their communities.”
Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said, “AmeriCorps members are providing valuable workforce training to job-seekers, from resume coaching and career guidance to job placement services. Thanks to this public-private partnership with Volunteer Florida and AmeirCorps, we are expanding economic opportunity in Florida.”
Bryan Koon, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said, “Volunteer Florida is the lead agency in our state for managing volunteers and donations in disasters – whether that’s helping communities prepare for, respond to, or recover from disasters. We’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand the dedication and allegiance that Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps members have to the people they serve.”
Darrill Gaschler, Chief Operating Officer of HandsOn Miami, said, “Volunteer Florida plays a critical role in our Volunteer Centers across the state, helping to promote volunteerism and highlight the phenomenal role that volunteers play in meeting critical human needs in Florida. AmeriCorps members have the ability to amplify impact in local communities by inspiring, equipping and mobilizing people to take action to positively effect change. We are happy to host Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps in our hometown for this 20th Anniversary celebration.”
Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, State Board of Education member and former Executive Director of Teach For America Miami-Dade, said, “Having served as an AmeriCorps member myself, I have seen firsthand the transformational effect that national service and volunteerism has on both our country and the people who serve. It is an honor to celebrate 20 years of AmeriCorps and Volunteer Florida, which have both had a tremendous impact on our state.”
Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, said, “AmeriCorps members make a powerful impact on the toughest challenges facing our nation. Building on Florida’s strong tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, AmeriCorps members have improved countless lives across Florida over the past 20 years. Volunteer Florida and its AmeriCorps grantees have become an indispensable solution for Florida’s communities.”
Today’s AmeriCorps ceremony was organized by Volunteer Florida, the Governor-appointed state service commission that oversees Florida’s AmeriCorps programs and promotes volunteering across the state. The event highlighted the commitment and impact of AmeriCorps members and alums over the past 20 years, and showcase how AmeriCorps has grown through innovative public-private partnerships that meet critical community needs and expand opportunity for those who serve.
Volunteer Florida is the Governor’s lead agency for volunteerism and national service in Florida. Volunteer Florida grants funds to educational foundations, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations to administer AmeriCorps and National Service Programs. Volunteer Florida leads Florida’s national days of service, including September 11 and Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. During disasters, Volunteer Florida is the lead agency for volunteers and donations. For more information, visit: www.volunteerflorida.org.