Neighbors Helping Neighbors - Service Together

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Closing Remarks by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson



Carl A. Anderson 
Carl A. Anderson 

As we know, there are about 110 organizations participating in our meeting today and we have about 175 participants who’ve got a wide range of groups and individuals and I believe that is further proof of the deep concern that we have as a nation for our neighbor and it shows the very best of our cooperation today. And as we go forward from this meeting, I think it is important that we challenge ourselves, whatever sector we are from, to do even more for our neighbors and to do this together in the best possible way.

Each sector of our country, whether government or non-profit, religious, educational or media or corporate, is to be commended for its promotion of volunteerism but we can do more. So I would like to present some thoughts and perhaps some challenges for each sector that has been involved in our meeting today and is involved in volunteer service.

To our government officials and lawmakers: Especially as we see an increasing and welcome emphasis by government on volunteerism, consider the critical role that volunteers can play as you develop legislation to respond to our economic crisis. Work with and talk to organizations like those in this room today who together can provide hundreds of years of volunteer experience and institutional knowledge about effective volunteering. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Talk to the organizations like those represented here today about the best practices that they’ve developed and the needs in our communities. And above all, don’t underestimate the presence and reach of our organizations within our communities. We know our neighbor’s needs and we know that no one sector of our country, including the government, can do everything.

To the media: Be our partners. Work with your communities to raise awareness of volunteer opportunities as they have done in Connecticut to help volunteers connect with organizations that need their help. Follow the marvelous lead of the program that we heard today from Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network. Every media market in the United States can benefit from such a program and public and private radio and television stations nationwide could donate an hour like Connecticut Public Broadcasting has done. And we, as volunteer organizations will make the most of that donation of time. We will put people in touch with organizations that have fabulous volunteer opportunities.

To those in the print media: Devote a few column inches a week to listing the volunteer opportunities in your community.

To corporate America: Expand your volunteer programs. We heard from General Electric today about the wonderful work their volunteers are doing. And if companies don’t already have a volunteer program, we urge you to start one. If your company does have such a program, consider ways to expand it, to create incentives for your employees to give back to their communities. There are many excellent ways of reaching people with volunteer opportunities but some people might be a little put off by showing up to volunteer with an organization in which they don’t know anyone. That discomfort is overcome when you volunteer with your coworkers and you know everyone in that group.

We released a poll yesterday with the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and we found that Americans want strong ethical leadership from our business leaders and that by an enormous margin, Americans believe that the moral compass of corporate America is not pointing in the right direction. What better way to restore American confidence in corporate America than by giving back to communities in concrete ways through employee volunteer programs that focus on the public good and in doing so transform the culture not only of the community but of the corporations involved in it.

To those in education: Do more to link your students to volunteer programs in your communities. We have all heard of alternative spring breaks in which students perform volunteer service. Encourage students to take part in such programs at high school and college in addition to the job fairs that colleges hold each year. Hold a volunteer fair at the beginning of the school year so that students can learn the opportunities and needs in their communities. Let us make the most of our students’ energy, idealism, and sense of community and let us give our students the experiences that will educate them every bit as much as what they learn in the classroom.

To our places of worship, our churches and synagogues: Bring volunteer opportunities to those in your pews. In any community in this country, people come together every week more than in any location in our places of worship and as I said a few moments ago, some people may be all the more likely to volunteer if they are approached through their church and they know that the people they prayed with on Sunday or Saturday will be the people they will be serving with in their community later in the week.

And to all of us gathered in this room, to the charitable and volunteer service organizations: We can do a better job working together. This summit is a very good start and an important first step. But it should not be an end. It should be a beginning. We must now go forward with the understanding that dialogue like what we’ve seen today is critical to providing the most effective support for our communities.

We each have different strengths, different areas of expertise, and our roles should be complementary. Our communities need the service each of us provides and we need each other to effectively help our neighbors in this crisis. So for this reason I want to assure you of our commitment to continue the dialogue we have begun today so that it may go forward. I want you to know that we will be following up over the next few weeks with a detailed report on this summit to each of you and with requests for suggestions from each of you about how we can build better lines of communication.

But as a starting point, I want to ask each of you to consider appointing a liaison who can be the point person in dealing with other volunteer and charitable organizations. If we each did that, we could facilitate our communication and work better within our communities together. And to this end, I’d like to announce to you that we are creating a new Web site, servicetogether.org, which could serve as a hub or a clearinghouse for communication among our organizations and a place where the public could learn more about volunteerism and what each of our organizations does to serve our communities.

So those are some observations which I hope may spark some discussion. And with that, I would like to thank you all once again, to thank Father Ryscavage and to thank all of you who have attended and especially those of you who have joined on our panels. Thank you very much.