Photo: Volunteer Iowa (Flickr)
U.S. Congressman Marlin Stutzman is looking to get to the root of volunteerism. Stutzman recently proposed the “Volunteer Freedom Act,” a bill that eliminates funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service – the group that provides funding for Americorp and Seniorcorp organizations.
Stutzman’s logic is simple, he believes if people volunteer they should do it out of the goodness of their hearts and not because there is a financial incentive. Stutzman says Americans could save more than a billion dollars each year if Congress approves his measure.
But, for some Indiana non-profits, the benefits from volunteer programs are more than money can buy. Brad Wilhelm has served at Rhino’s Youth Media Center and All- Ages Club for more than 20 years. While Rhino’s will not feel much impact from the proposed legislation, Wilhelm says other non-profits may have trouble maintaining their existing level of services.
“A, because Americorp delivers volunteers that are already pre-trained and pre-screened and are ready to get to work and B, because in order to make up for those volunteers you’re going to have to have a volunteer coordinator, you’re going to have to have another volunteer outreach,” he says. “You’re going to have to expand the resources just to bring people in to help you do what you’d been doing with the help of Americorp.”
Indiana University student and Americorp alum Christopher Bentley says people don’t understand the ripple effect community service can have.
“Because Americorp, for example, not only impacts those that are being served-the schools and the cities and the non-profit organizations that have Americorp service reps, but it also impacts the individual Americorp members and it also impacts the overall community,” he says.
A spokesperson for Stutzman’s office refused to comment on the legislation, but in a press release, Stutzman said the bill is quote based on a simple truth, it is not volunteering if it comes with a paycheck.