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I am writing in response to Cal Thomas' op-ed in the Feb. 1 News. His statement that "the Clinton administration gave volunteerism a bad name when it established AmeriCorps and paid the "volunteers' " outraged me.

Thomas' statement proves that he is unfamiliar with the history of national service. Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt began the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of the "new deal," Americans have been getting paid for service to their country. The practice continued when John F. Kennedy started the Peace Corps during his administration and when Lyndon B. Johnson started VISTA during his administration.

I am the executive director of the West Seneca Youth Bureau, which hosts five AmeriCorps programs: Service Action Corps, Urban Revival Corps, the Standard Bearers American's Promise tutoring effort, the Governor's Violence Prevention Program and VISTA.

AmeriCorps members have made outstanding contributions to the neighborhoods they serve.

Members have tutored 15,000 students, cleaned 20 miles of waterways, shoveled 300,000 pounds of snow through Operation Giveback, delivered 15,000 pounds of food each week to area food pantries, committed 15,000 hours of violence-prevention mentoring, revitalized 100 playgrounds and parks, cleaned 700 vacant lots, committed 100,000 hours to community projects and awarded more than $5.5 million in educational awards to members.

In addition, AmeriCorps members have mobilized countless community volunteers for projects such as Martin Luther King Day and Earth Day.

Yes, some AmeriCorps members receive a small living allowance, which covers the most basic necessities. Some simply receive an educational award at the end of their term of service.

To say that AmeriCorps has given volunteerism "a bad name" is a ludicrous statement. The commitment members have shown to the neighborhoods they serve, the states they live in and the country they cherish is undeniable.

AmeriCorps members should be commended for their work, not persecuted for it.


West Seneca

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