Bush creates new federal volunteer organization, expands Peace Corps

President Bush Tuesday signed an executive order creating a new federal volunteer organization that will work with agencies and nonprofit groups to promote community service at home and abroad. The USA Freedom Corps, which Bush unveiled during his State of the Union address, will strive to double the number of Peace Corps volunteers over the next five years and add 125,000 new volunteers to the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps national service programs. The initiative also creates a new Citizen Corps to encourage people to become involved in homeland security efforts in their communities.

"My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years--4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime--to the service of your neighbors and your nation," Bush said during his address. "The Freedom Corps will focus on three areas of need: responding in case of crisis at home; rebuilding our communities; and extending American compassion throughout the world." Bush is requesting more than $560 million in fiscal 2003 to support the new Freedom Corps. The executive order also creates a Freedom Corps Council and a White House office with a director who will manage the new organization, help agencies recruit and mobilize volunteers and find ways to recognize the volunteer efforts of Americans at home and abroad. The president, vice president and heads of several agencies including the Departments of Justice and Education, Peace Corps and Federal Emergency Management Agency will sit on the council. The Citizen Corps will seek to mobilize community volunteers to help police, emergency and medical personnel prepare for the threat of terrorism. The program will build on existing efforts in crime prevention, natural disaster preparedness and public health response. Bush's plan to double the number of Peace Corps volunteers over the next five years aims to return the number of volunteers to its historic high of 15,000 in 1966. The president also asked the organization to encourage developmental and educational activities in the Islamic world and support reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The administration is requesting more than $200 million over the next four fiscal years for these Peace Corp initiatives. AmeriCorps volunteers, who are 17 and older, help rebuild the nation's communities along with other organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross. Senior Corps volunteers, who are 55 and older, share their time and experience with young people as foster grandparents, or help other seniors live independently. Additional information on the USA Freedom Corps is available online at www.usafreedomcorps.gov or by calling 877-USA-CORPS.

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