New York City Civic Corps, At Your Service

Everyone knows New York City is a special place.

Residents also know that New York has real problems: homelessness, joblessness, working poor, and a struggling education system are but a few of them. Last year as the global economy sank into a brutal recession, Mayor Mike Bloomberg used stimulus funding from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate volunteerism and address the challenges many New Yorkers struggle with every day.

The Mayor's office decided to organize a group of individuals charged with making New York the world’s easiest city in which to volunteer. The plan was announced on April 20, 2009. A quick turn-around resulted in the first New York City Civic Corps class being sworn in at City Hall in July. Nearly 200 volunteers were dispersed among 60 nonprofit and public agencies across the city with one goal: Create a sustainable impact by increasing volunteerism.

On January 22, six months into the program, the New York service community convened at City Hall for a “State of NYC Service” Address. As an NYC Corps member, I was not only invited to attend but also honored to be chosen to speak on behalf of my fellow members. After nervously sharing my experiences, both good and bad, I was followed by New York's Chief Service Officer, Diahann Billings-Burford.

Ms. Billings-Burford provided statistics documenting the program’s early successes, discussed some of the unexpected positive outcomes, and identified areas for improvement. Since July the NYC Civic Corps has recruited more than 18,000 volunteers who have served nearly 70,000 New Yorkers in need. The monetary value of services provided is well over $1 million. Impressive results, to say the least.

With another six months left, the NYC Civic Corps still has plenty of work to do. But the program’s early success has led NYC Service to continue the program into 201, pending funding. The program’s impact has been recognized nationally, and on Martin Luther King Day ten additional cities announced they would be initiating similar programs. With the recession continuing to adversely affect nonprofit fund raising, a state budget proposal cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from city funding, and more people than ever in need of help, the timing could not have been better.