happy valentine’s day, and an unrelated tangent

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you get to spend it doing something awesome, like eating chocolate covered strawberries (my favorite thing in the world) or your personal equivalent.

Permit me a moment to move away from Valentine’s Day to talk about something that is pretty important to me. Last week House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers proposed eliminating funding for Americorps as one of several cost-saving solutions. For those of you who don’t know, Americorps places volunteers with organizations to work towards the goal of alleviating poverty in the U.S. Shirley Sagawa has an article about it here. Volunteers are often placed with organizations that typically couldn’t afford to hire an additional staff person, but greatly benefit from it.  These volunteers aren’t paid a salary, but receive a living allowance that puts them at poverty level in order to better understand the lives of those they’re trying to help. Upon completion of service, they can also receive a small education award.

I spent last year volunteering in West Virginia as an Americorps VISTA. I worked for an affordable housing non-profit and got to see first hand the incredible work they do every day. It was an amazing personal and professional experience. My boss was a great mentor, and I learned the struggles of trying to make it on very little money (a skill that would be useful for just about everyone, I think). I’ll be the first to admit that Americorps isn’t always the most efficient program, but the great work it does certainly outweighs its negatives.

Cutting the program’s funding would mean not only the loss of thousands of jobs, but also the loss of a resource for many worthy organizations nationwide and ultimately of many opportunities for the nation’s impoverished.

I can think of no better ending for this piece than to quote Sagawa from her article in the Huffington Post:

“And it will have lasting consequences for our country if we turn away the time and talent of those willing, but not able, to serve. That’s something all of us should appreciate, whatever our ideology.”

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