President starts United We Serve initiative

June 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
This summer the president is calling on all Americans to volunteer. He means everyone: young and old, rich or poor.

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A few dozen volunteers showed up Wednesday night at the San Francisco Food Bank with plenty of hands to do the job.

"This is super easy, it's two hours after work on a Wednesday night and you know we're helping out," says Courtney Pash, a volunteer.

Now a program under President Obama is trying to get more people to volunteer their time. In a video message, the president unveiled "United We Serve." The idea is to supplement the government's economic recovery efforts.

"We can rebuild our schools, but we need people to be mentors and tutors in those schools. We can modernize our health care system, but we need volunteers in our hospitals and communities to help care for the sick and help people lead healthier lives," says President Obama.

The United We Serve summer initiative will focus on four areas of interest to the president: health, education, the environment, and community renewal.

At Serve.gov, agencies can post volunteer opportunities while volunteers can find work. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark helped the project get underway after hearing the president wanted to start a "Craigslist for service."

"I realized that it would not be stupid of me to get ahead of that curve and it felt right to say 'Hey, here's something we can do now that's doable,'" says Newmark.

The desire to volunteer was overwhelming at the Presidio Golf Course Wednesday night. The turnout was big at the Special Olympics practice session.

"Now we have twice as many volunteers as we have athletes, but I would never tell anybody if you wanted to come out, not to come out. This is a great life experience," says Tony Bertrand, a volunteer golf coach.

An experience the president hopes will become a normal part of everyday life.

United We Serve: www.serve.gov

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