Quickly making his mark on the Corporation for National Service is former Indianapolis mayor Steven Goldsmith, now an unpaid special assistant to the president and a spokesperson for the faith-based initiative. Bush designated Goldsmith as the CNS chairman in January. Shortly after the Senate confirmed his appointment to the 14-member board, his colleagues complied at a late May meeting in Jackson, Mississippi. Contact: (202) 606-5000 or www.cns.gov.
Struggling to make a mark in the world of national service is Michael Meneer, executive director of the Americorps Alums. The tiny group has two staff and a hand-to-mouth $100,000 budget as it works toward its mission of “ensuring AmeriCorps in a year is a lifetime of service.” Its organizational roots are entwined with the legacy of the Corporation for National Service’s first CEO, Eli Segal, when it and its major program, AmeriCorps, were established in 1993. Looking to forge alliances with the philanthropic world and to skirt those annoying restrictions on federal activities, Segal established the Partnership for National Service with a tidy $3 million grant from the Ford Foundation. But Congress, under GOP control after January 1995, took a dim view of the venture and its interlocking board memberships. Shorn of its original reason for being, the PNS (headed since 1996 by Miriam Parel) found a protector-for-life in the person of Bob Goodwin, president of the Points of Light Foundation (POL), where Parel is now vice-president for the quasi-federal agency that receives an annual $10 million via CNS’ budget. PNS helped start AmeriCorps Alums in 1995, and the group incorporated as a nonprofit in 1997.
Meneer, who spent two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Ohio, is the third director in five years. His deputy, Pam Morris, puts the membership at 1,500, while salesman Meneer puts the figure at 3,000. Dues are $10 for students and $25 for non-students. According to AmeriCorps Alums’ website, members receive quarterly issues of its newsletter, Alum Action and, most miraculously (“to keep you connected”), Who Cares, a journal of service and action, which hasn’t been published in over two years.
The earnest Meneer has great hopes for building membership to support “all streams of service.” Three active chapters in Boston, Baltimore and D.C. will soon be joined by a dozen more, says Meneer. A pending $100,000 co-operative agreement with CNS will enable AmeriCorps alums to expand its efforts with former volunteers and should help the group boost membership and also improve its counting, not that proficiency in math is a requirement with the Bush administration. Contact: (202) 729-8180 or www.americorpsalums.org.
Departing after 12 years at the Benton Foundation is President Larry Kirkman. He’ll become the dean of American University’s School of Communication in July. The D.C.-based Benton Foundation (assets: $14 million) is mostly an operating foundation in the realms of new media, helping nonprofits utilize the potential of the Internet and produce and manage Internet-based networks. Benton is best known in the children and youth field for its public portal, www.connectforkids.org, with 35 topic areas and links to 2,000 children and youth services and related advocacy websites.
In 1989 Kirkman joined Benton and found a staff of three and a budget of less than $1 million. Now its 30 staff operate with a budget of some $7 million, 15 percent of it from Benton’s endowment. During his years at Benton, Kirkman undertook two extensive child advocacy campaigns aimed at the general public: “The Campaign to End Childhood Hunger” with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), and “Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding?” with the Coalition for America’s Children. The salutatory result of that campaign: a new president vowing to “Leave No Child Behind.” Hey, just kidding! Contact: (202) 638-5770 or www.benton.org.
Appointed as executive director for the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is Destry Jarvis, former senior advisor to Kathleen Seltz, president of the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps and a senior official at the Interior Department during the Clinton administration. NRPA’s 23,000 park professionals and civic leaders encourage recreation initiatives for youth in high-risk environments, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, and conservation of natural and cultural resources. Contact: (703) 858-2174 or www.activeparks.org.