Rep. Richard Neal, AmeriCorps CEO and Springfield native Michael D. Smith, talk service with local volunteers
Springfield, MA, November 3, 2022 | Jim Kinney, The Republican
But now, like anyone with jobs to fill, AmeriCorps finds it has to work to fill slots in the federal agency for volunteering and service.
“Dr. (Martin Luther) King said it best, anybody can be great because anybody can serve,” Smith, a Springfield native, said Thursday “So we need more people to come in and be great with us.”
AmeriCorps currently has more than 250,000 volunteers and members, 7,000 of them in Massachusetts at more than 1,000 sites.
Smith, nominated to his post in 2021 by President Joe Biden, met Thursday with U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield. Smith said Neal impacted his life, first as mayor and later as his boss when Smith served as an intern and congressional aide.
Smith and Neal met with local volunteers from from Mass Mentoring Partnership AmeriCorps, Springfield College AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts, DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps, Massachusetts Reading Corps/Literacy Lab, Food Corps, and AmeriCorps Seniors. The group included one volunteer with the AmeriCorps foster grandparent program who is 93 years old.
The meeting was at Educare in Springfield.
Smith said he’s working with Neal and other lawmakers making sure that AmeriCorps’ allowances and benefits packages are competitive.
Neal said support for AmeriCorps cuts across party lines.
“I think it appeals to both the left and the right,” he said. “The divide is really eliminated when you talk about service to the nation. That is what AmeriCorps does.”
Smith touted a new $400 million partnership with the Centers for Disease Control where AmeriCorps volunteers fight public health threats and also get the training they need to become the next generation of public health workers.
“We are finding a lot of excitement. The great thing about AmeriCorps is that people get to vote with their feet,” Smith said.
AmeriCorps is also increasing activity in mental health and substance abuse as well as education.
Before Biden tapped him for AmeriCorps, Smith served as executive director for the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and director of youth opportunity programs at the Obama Foundation. Previously, he was an appointee in the Obama administration, serving as director of the Social Innovation Fund.
He also worked at the Boys & Girls Club Family Center in Springfield having grown up in the McKnight neighborhood.
Neal said meeting with Smith is personal for him.
“A product of Springfield, Boys Club DNA and he worked in my office for a long time. Now he heads one of the most important agencies in the United States of America,” Neal said.
For Smith, the roundtable session was a homecoming.
“It is wonderful to be here with the community that raised me, with the congressman who give so many kids like me an opportunity,” he said.
He told the volunteers that his tank was full and that he felt refreshed after meeting with them.
“They remind me of the folks who took that extra time to make my life and my pathway possible,” Smith said. “It feels so good to not only give back, but to be inspired by the folks who are serving in the city.”Link to article HERE.