Under federal legislation signed by President Obama Tuesday, the number of volunteers in Iowa’s AmeriCorps program is expected to more than triple. Iowa currently has about 1,000 AmeriCorps volunteers.
They build homes, restore wildlife preserves and help with disaster recovery efforts, among other things. In exchange for volunteering, participants receive a living stipend and education grant.
Adam Lounsbury is executive director of the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. He says the law will give middle and high school students an opportunity to volunteer.
"There’s a Summer of Service program, which creates a summer program for middle school and high school youth that will be able to participate and receive a $500 education award for doing 150 hours of service over the summer," Lounsbury said.
The new law is designed to not only increase the number of volunteers, but also help retain them. "Teaching nonprofits how to better utilize volunteers became much more important…and that’s really what the volunteer generation fund really does is creates those infrastructure organizations that work with local nonprofits to do a better job of retaining and keeping volunteers," Lounsbury said.
Retaining volunteers is AmeriCorps’ biggest challenge because about one-third quit during their service.