City Leaders Get Things Done. So Do National Service Programs.

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In this guest post celebrating Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service, Commissioner Gil Ziffer explains how the proposed federal budget cuts to service programs like AmeriCorps will have a significant impact on cities.

Americorps is a national program of civil service supported by the federal government, foundations, corporations and others with the goal of “helping others and meeting the needs in the community.” In this photo, Americorps members work with an Associate Director of Habitat for Humanity on a building used to house volunteers assisting with disaster recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast in 2006. (Wikimedia Commons)

This is a guest post by Commissioner Gil Ziffer. This is the first post in a series on the programs eliminated in the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal.

Five years ago, the National League of Cities (NLC) joined city leaders across the nation to participate in the first-ever Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service. What began as a collection of just a few hundred mayors to highlight the impact of national service in their cities has grown to include more than 3,500 local leaders – mayors, councilmembers, county officials and tribal leaders – and is a true testament to the power of citizen service.

But the connections between city leaders and national service don’t stop there.

Local leaders are all about getting things done. They’re focused on solving problems for their communities. That’s a mission shared with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency in charge of the nation’s national service programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and other volunteer initiatives. Before they are able to begin their service, each AmeriCorps and Senior Corps member must raise their hand and recite a pledge committing to ‘get things done’ for America.

That’s exactly what they’re doing in more than 50,000 locations across the nation – in our biggest cities and smallest towns. Dedicated Americans, young, old and in-between, tackling the tough challenges facing our communities. Bringing forgotten neighborhoods back to life. Restoring city parks. Ending veteran homelessness. Strengthening schools and boosting graduation rates. Preparing youth and adults for 21st century jobs.

We don’t have to look far to find powerful examples of national service members getting things done. In my own city of Tallahassee, Florida, AmeriCorps members are tutoring and mentoring students in low-performing schools, helping to improve student performance and attendance and reduce disciplinary actions. Our homeless receive job training, resource connections, financial literacy and housing assistance. And our Alzheimer’s Project provides families respite care, allowing caregivers a much needed break. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Senior Corps volunteers are ensuring that more than 150 home-bound seniors every year are able to live independently. And from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Richwood, West Virginia, national service members are helping communities impacted by devastating disasters recover and rebuild.

In every challenge, there is an opportunity. Programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps build upon that opportunity to make communities a better place to live, work and raise a family. National service is a solution for cities that need to do more with less by harnessing the ingenuity and “can-do” American spirit of the citizens within their community.

In his proposed budget, President Donald Trump eliminates funding for various independent agencies, including CNCS – and this will have a direct impact on the Americans working with us and showing that it does, in fact, take cities to move America forward. I hope you will join me in fighting to ensure that CNCS remains an agency dedicated to service by sharing with our members of Congress how this funding is critical to communities across the nation.

City leaders can also celebrate the impact of national service in our communities by participating in this year’s Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service on April 4, 2017. Signing up is easy! Click here to learn more.

About the author: Gil Ziffer is the commissioner of Tallahassee, Florida, and the chair of the HD Committee.