Newsletter – July 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama and California First Lady Maria Shriver Kick Off 2009 National Conference on Volunteering & Service with Playground Service Project

Maria Shriver walking with Michelle ObamaFirst Lady Michelle Obama joined First Lady Maria Shriver at Bret Harte Elementary School in South San Francisco for a CaliforniaVolunteers sponsored playground service project to kick-off the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. The project marked Shriver’s 31st playground build throughout California.

“This is more than a play space, this is a testament to the fact that Californians of any age can unite around the concept of play, serve their communities and create an inclusive environment that transcends age diversity,” said First Lady Maria Shriver. “This trailblazing play space truly embraces the philosophy that playground lessons last a lifetime and we never outgrow play.”

The play space project is part of the CaliforniaVolunteers’ Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning initiative which works to engage California’s youth in service to honor the legacy of Cesar E. Chavez. Since the program began, CaliforniaVolunteers has established nearly 100 afterschool service clubs in Title I middle schools and sponsored volunteer-built playspaces throughout the state.

This play space marks the first fully intergenerational volunteer-build playground, with kids, parents, seniors and Alzheimer’s experts engaged in every step of the planning and construction process. An edible garden features a farmer’s market stand, allowing kids and seniors from the community to create a micro enterprise, sell vegetables and raise money for the school. The playground was constructed in collaboration and the Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, which continues Shriver’s advocacy on behalf of families struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.

2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service

2009 National Conference on Service and Volunteering logoOn June 22-24 the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Points of Light Institute co-convened the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service in San Francisco. The conference is the world’s largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, government and corporate sectors. Nearly 5,000 people from across the nation attended the largest conference in its history.

Governor Schwarzenegger, who served as honorary co-chair of the 2009 conference with First Lady Maria Shriver, was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Maria Shriver as keynote speakers at the opening plenary session of the conference. Other notable presenters included Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Harvard Professor and CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, actor Matthew McConaughey and singer Jon Bon Jovi. The national conference serves as a platform for government and service leaders, nonprofit innovators and volunteers to participate in vital conversations about the future of service and volunteering in America.

“I created the first-in-the-nation Cabinet Secretary for service and volunteering to help make service a part of everything we do – and at this unique time in our history, the call to action has never been more important,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Volunteerism is a very powerful force in California and it’s my hope that with champions of service in the White House, like First Lady Michelle Obama, it gains strength across the nation.”

The three day conference included over 175 workshops, forums and plenary sessions that touched on a number of service related issues. The conference also included over 60 exhibitor stations to provide attendees insight into programs and ideas that are pivotal in driving the national movement for change in social service as well as a career center that boasted resources, personal career guidance and mini-workshops, available to all attendees.

“We embrace the national conference as an opportunity to showcase the innovative and trailblazing contributions California has made to the service movement, largely due to the bold leadership and support of our governor,” said Karen Baker, secretary of service and volunteering and co-chair of the national conference host committee. “We also want to leverage the insights from the conference to bring the best practices from other states right here to California, and continue taking the service movement to the next level in our great state.”

Please visit to view video from the opening plenary of the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service.

Inaugural Governor and First Lady’s Medals for Service Recipients

Photo of medal recipients with Governor SchwarzeneggerCalifornia held its inaugural Governor and First Lady’s Medals for Service ceremony on Monday, June 22, handing out three prestigious awards honoring the state’s top volunteer leaders. Attended by First Lady Maria Shriver and California Secretary of Service and Volunteering, Karen Baker, the recipients received their honors as part of the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service, taking place in San Francisco from June 22-24.

The California Medals for Service, an important component to the CaliforniaVolunteers volunteer recognition program, were designed to recognize individual volunteers, nonprofit leaders and business volunteer programs whose innovation in the field of volunteerism has had a tangible impact on their community, region and the state of California. Shining a spotlight on the state’s commitment to service, the awards demonstrate how simple acts can make big changes in communities across California.

“We received more than 100 nominations for the 2009 inaugural awards filled with amazing stories about volunteers and service projects that are changing neighborhoods and lives throughout the state,” said California’s Secretary of Service and Volunteering, Karen Baker. “Today’s recipients rose to the top of the outstanding nominations as the embodiment of the service movement. They are an inspiration to us all on what can be achieved through determination and commitment.”

Volunteer of the Year
Thomas Zimmerman, Co-Founder Extreme Science Program

Thomas Zimmerman, a scientist at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, has been bringing his hands-on approach to volunteerism to local schools for more than seven years, with specific focus on low-income, non-native English speaking students. Zimmerman founded and directs the Extreme Science Program at the Latino College Preparatory Academy (LCPA) in East San Jose, a hands-on after school science enrichment program to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and engineering. The program has grown to 16 teachers, attracting scientists and engineers from NASA Ames, Lockheed Martin, San Jose State University and the United States Geological Survey. He is now expanding his volunteer work to the college level at the San Jose State University Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, supporting minority students on solar energy projects and providing mentors for his high school students.

Nonprofit Leader of the Year
David Levinson, Founder and Director, Big Sunday

Hailing from Los Angeles, David Levinson, founder and executive director of Big Sunday, was recognized as California’s Nonprofit Leader of the Year. Founded in 1999, Big Sunday is a 50,000 volunteer two-day event across Southern California, serving more than 300 nonprofit organizations, engaging people across faith, ethnic, economic, cultural and other boundaries. Big Sunday volunteers paint, build, repair, plant, play, cook, sew, organize, entertain, sell lemonade, decorate cookies, make greeting cards and deliver food in the spirit that everyone has some way they can help somebody else. Through Levinson’s leadership, the event has grown to be the largest regional community service event in the country.

Business Volunteer Program of the Year
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

PG&E received the service award for California’s Business Volunteer Program of the Year for their support of the California State Park Foundation’s Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup program. Over the past eight years, more than 5,000 of PG&E’s dedicated employee volunteers have been involved in a variety of activities, including the building of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) pathways; installation of interpretive signs; planting of trees and community gardens; the removal of tons of trash and recyclables; and other improvements such as painting over graffiti and installing irrigation systems. This work helped mitigate the significant maintenance backlog faced by California’s parks. In partnership with a variety of nonprofits throughout California, PG&E has also been involved with more than 500 employee volunteer events this past year.

Also debuted at the Medals for Service ceremony, CaliforniaVolunteers expanded its highly successful Governor and First Lady’s Service Awards. Before only available to youth, the newly expanded Governor and First Lady and First Lady Service Awards are available to all Californians who serve.

Children and adults are eligible for the award: Children ages 5-14 must complete 25 hours of community service in a 12-month period; youth and adults ages 15 and over must complete 50 hours of service in a 12-month period. Award recipients will receive a personalized certificate signed by the Governor and First Lady and a customized CaliforniaVolunteers carabineer key chain. After receiving their award, volunteers are encouraged to continue serving towards recognition provided by the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Volunteers must complete their hours of service with a certifying organization. To identify a certifying organization in your community, please visit the Governor and First Lady’s Service Award Web site.

If you a community organization that is interested in becoming a certifying organization, please visit the Governor and First Lady’s Service Award website for application materials. After completing a short application, you will be given access to an on-line account allowing you to track volunteer hours and order both the Governor and First Lady’s Service Awards and the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

If you have further questions regarding the Governor and First Lady’s Service Award, please contact us at

The Governor and First Lady’s Medals for Service luncheon and awards were made possible by a generous grant from the Shinnyo-en Foundation.

CaliforniaVolunteers Announces 2009-10 AmeriCorps Portfolio

AmeriCorps LogoOn June 25 CaliforniaVolunteers announced its 2009-10 AmeriCorps portfolio, totaling $23.5 million in grants to 48 AmeriCorps programs supporting more than 4,000 members addressing critical environmental, educational, public safety or other human needs.

“AmeriCorps members and programs are an invaluable asset in tackling the increased challenges our communities face during these tough economic times,” said Secretary of Service and Volunteering, Karen Baker. “Their service is critical, now more than ever, to the health of our communities and our state.”

The 2009-10 AmeriCorps portfolio consists of programs funded through a national grant competition and those funded through an allotment each state receives based upon population. Seven California AmeriCorps programs were successful in the national competition and brought $4 million in AmeriCorps funds to the state. CaliforniaVolunteers received an additional $6.2 million from the Corporation for National and Community Service based upon the state’s population, helping support 16 new AmeriCorps programs. In addition to the new programs, CaliforniaVolunteers allocated $13.3 million to continue funding 26 existing programs.

Earlier this year, CaliforniaVolunteers was also awarded $9.3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funds for continued support of existing grantees. The Recovery Act funding was dispersed between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 AmeriCorps portfolio.

“We applaud all of California’s AmeriCorps programs for their dedicated service,” concluded Baker. “For many of these organizations, this is the extra boost they need to continue making a valuable impact on the communities they serve and we cannot express our gratitude enough for their tireless dedication to making their communities a better place.”

AmeriCorps is a national service program that engages Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to meet critical needs in education, the environment, public safety, and other areas. Its members serve in thousands of nonprofit and faith-based organizations in rural and urban communities throughout the nation. Among other activities, AmeriCorps members tutor and mentor youth, build affordable housing, teach computer skills, clean parks and streams, run after school programs, help communities respond to disasters, and recruit and train volunteers. Since 1994, more than 80,000 Californians have served in AmeriCorps, contributing more than 90 million hours to various communities across the state.

To find an AmeriCorps or other national service program in your area, visit the national service directory.

For a detailed list of California’s entire 2009-10 AmeriCorps portfolio, please visit

2009 California AmeriCorps Conference

AmeriCorps LogoIn preparation for the launch of the 2009-10 AmeriCorps program year, CaliforniaVolunteers held the 2009 California AmeriCorps Conference on June 25-26 in San Francisco. With 54 AmeriCorps*State and National programs represented and 143 program staff in attendance, the conference was a resounding success. Attendees participated in workshops that offered new strategies for communicating program impacts and new approaches to AmeriCorps member development. Additional sessions touched on fraud prevention and integrating programmatic and fiscal policies and procedures to ensure adequate program oversight. Highlights included discussions on the implementation of the groundbreaking Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that has reauthorized and updated national service programming, as well as ongoing dialogues about renewing the commitment to service as a solution to tackle our communities’ most pressing needs.

More than 3,900 individuals served as AmeriCorps members during the 2008-09 program year. CaliforniaVolunteers, in its role as the state service commission, supported these members via $26 million in grants to 50 programs statewide. While the majority of that investment (52 percent) is in education-related programming, California AmeriCorps programs also focus on the environment, health and human needs, public safety and youth development. Of the over 3,900 AmeriCorps members supported by CaliforniaVolunteers, approximately 76 percent are female and 26 percent are college graduates.

California Green Jobs Corp Funding Recipients Announced

Governor Announces California Green Jobs Corps Funding RecipientsOn June 29 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the recipients of nearly $10 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funding to launch 11 regional California Green Job Corps pilot programs throughout the state. The Recovery Act funding will be matched with more than $10 million in local resources to provide job training and community service opportunities in California’s emerging green economy for 1,500 at-risk young adults aged 16-24, helping create a cleaner environment and spur economic growth in California.

“We are working around the clock to bring Recovery Act funding into California as quickly, effectively and responsibly as possible to stimulate our economy,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Using Recovery funds and public-private partnerships, the California Green Jobs Corps will help 1,500 at-risk young adults realize a brighter future while stimulating our economy and working toward a greener California.”

The 11 regional programs will provide Green Jobs Corps opportunities for 1,500 at-risk youth aged 16-24. Participants will receive career training in energy/utilities efficiency and sustainability, green construction, green waste, agricultural and natural resources, solar power and alternative automotive fuel.

“In the next decade, California will need tens of thousands of trained and competent workers to fill the labor demands of the emerging green economy,” said Doug Hoffner, Acting Secretary of the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency. “This program reflects Governor Schwarzenegger’s commitment to energy efficiency and a cleaner environment, and is a unique opportunity for the next generation of our workforce to immediately become skillful and marketable in California’s green sector.”

Youth will also participate in community service activities, including weatherization outreach and assistance to senior housing facilities. They will work with Habitat for Humanity to build low-cost, energy-efficient homes for low-income families, and with Project Restoration to recycle computers and rebuild them for nonprofit use.

“This is an innovative opportunity for young people to receive training in fields that will support California’s emerging green economy while also contributing to their communities through service,” remarked Karen Baker, California’s secretary of service and volunteering. “During these tough times, public private partnerships like the California Green Jobs Corps leverage all available resources to strengthen our communities.” Baker heads CaliforniaVolunteers, the nation’s first state cabinet-level office for volunteering.

Please visit the Governor’s Web site to view the press release.

“Surviving and Thriving During Tough Times Conference” Content Now Available Online

Group photo of childrenIn April 2009, CaliforniaVolunteers, in partnership with Bank of America, Taproot Foundation, and over 30 local organizations, hosted a series of six conferences across the state, providing key training to over 1,000 nonprofit leaders. The conference series, Surviving and Thriving During Tough Times, focused on a number of issues relating to the nonprofit community and the current economic climate.

CaliforniaVolunteers is pleased to provide conference materials to all nonprofits and interested parties who were unable to attend the informative conference series.

Please visit the Surviving and Thriving During Tough Times Web site to view and download conference video and presentations, resources for nonprofits and local labor and workforce statistics.

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