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Bush seeks boost in volunteerism

President Bush urged community service in his State of the Union address this year.
President Bush urged community service in his State of the Union address this year.  

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush, in Philadelphia on Tuesday urging Americans to perform community service, has directed his Cabinet to report within 30 days on ways to boost volunteerism, an administration official said.

The directive is part of the president's USA Freedom Corps initiative, detailed in his State of the Union address in January, calling on Americans to give at least two years of service, the equivalent of 4,000 hours, to others.

Bush renewed that call in Philadelphia, where he participated in a discussion on volunteerism that was preceded by a tour of the People's Emergency Center, a shelter for homeless women and children.

"This is a good place to come and start a dialogue," the president said. "Societies change one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time, and government can hand out money but it cannot put hope in people's hearts."

Bush said volunteerism has increased since his State of the Union address, and said he had instructed government agencies to make it easier for Americans to volunteer.

A senior administration official said the president wants federal agencies to review service opportunities and barriers.

Lindsey Kozberg, communications director for the USA Freedom Corps, said the goal is "to get the federal house in order so that we know where service opportunities exist, we make sure the public knows about those opportunities and we ... break down any barriers or hindrances to volunteer service that exist in our regulations or programs."

For example, Kozberg said, Americans might not be aware of volunteer opportunities such as with the National Park Service or Veterans Affairs hospitals.

Since the launch of USA Freedom Corps, applications for the Peace Corps are up more than 50 percent and those for the AmeriCorps program, the initiative President Clinton launched to encourage national service, are up nearly 50 percent, the White House said.

Almost 20,000 people nationwide have signed up to participate in the Citizen Corps, an effort designed to help local communities fight terrorism, administration officials said.


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