Politics

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Schwarzenegger Elevates California Volunteers

February 27, 2008 05:09 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has created a cabinet post to manage citizen volunteers in an effort to better utilize them during disaster relief.

30-Second Summary

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On Feb. 26, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced the creation of the new post, which gives head of California Volunteers Karen Baker a prominent role in disaster preparation and response planning.

Baker, whose new title is the secretary for service and volunteering, said "Government can't do it alone, and that's why I think the governor's smart to elevate” the role of citizen volunteers.

The governor was inspired to make the “radical” appointment, as Time magazine describes it, after watching volunteers in action during the October 2007 California wildfires and the November 2007 oil spill in San Francisco.

The timing may be just right. Since Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the country has seen volunteerism reach historic levels.

Blogging for New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune, John Pope applauds the overwhelming volunteer effort along the Gulf Coast during the two years since Hurricane Katrina. According to a federal report, Katrina volunteers have contributed services worth nearly $263 million.

Even untrained volunteers can make a difference according to experts quoted in a November 2005 New York Times article published in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Ophelia.

Kathy Bushkin of the AOL Time Warner Foundation told the Times that volunteering has become more common since Sept. 11. "We tapped into something so deep in people's need to do something," she said.

But heroic volunteerism is nothing new. When France fell to Nazi Germany in World War II, volunteers set out from the English coast in small private boats to rescue the British troops stranded on the other side of the Channel at Dunkirk. A descendant of a tugboat volunteer shares his family’s story on the BBC website.

Headline Link: California government recognizes volunteers

Background: Volunteerism since Sept. 11 and Katrina

Opinion & Analysis: Commending Katrina volunteers

Related Topics: Volunteerism 101

Historical Context: Volunteers in history

Reference: How to volunteer

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