Wednesday, April 6

Sharing Community Service

Yesterday, along with Craig Warner, state program director for the Corporation for National and Community Service, I had the honor of representing the Nevada Commission for National & Community Service (NCNCS), which oversees seven AmeriCorps programs in Nevada, to recognize three outstanding individuals at the National Service Summit in Las Vegas. The awards were for outstanding service through either AmeriCorps, VISTA or SeniorCorps.

As vice chair of the NCNCS, I was asked to recognize the AmeriCorps award recipient, Raul Gomez, who serves as a AmeriCorps member at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas. Over the last couple years, he has developed several dozen programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs to benefit area youth.

Even more amazing to me, he is one of 160 highly skilled AmeriCorps members in Nevada who dedicate between three and 12 months of their lives to community service in exchange for modest living conditions and a small education award so they may go on to college upon completion of their civic contribution. It's an excellent program, one that I've been thrilled to be part of since Gov. Kenny Guinn first appointed me to the commission almost four years ago.

More than any other reason, my motivation to serve is because of individuals like Gomez. Their dedication, humility, and passion to help others is nothing less than inspirational. Collectively, these individuals have helped more than 194,000 Nevadans during the 2003-04 fiscal year and they do it with minimal program funding, recognition, or reward.

As far as return on investment for the state, few programs come close to AmeriCorps in Nevada, which is involved in everything from increasing literacy and supporting at-risk youth, to providing job training and rehabilitation for homeless veterans, and environmental programs that restore our state's natural resources while reducing the risk of forest fires near rural and metropolitan areas.

Considering Nevada often ranks near the bottom in terms of overall charitable giving when compared to most states, I have always found it encouraging that AmeriCorps members and hundreds of other volunteers throughout Nevada remain unwavering in their commitment to make a difference. It makes me wonder, perhaps, if we should sometimes pay more attention to such positive examples and stellar role models in our state and less time on statistics that frequently ask the wrong questions.

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