A Brief History of National Service

When faced with challenges, our nation has always relied on the dedication and action of its citizens. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) carries on a long tradition of citizen involvement by providing opportunities for Americans of all ages to improve their communities through service.

Revival of Interest in National and Community Service

President George H. W. Bush helped spark a revival of interest in national service when he instituted the White House Office of National Service in 1989. In 1990 Congress passed the National and Community Service Act, which created a Commission on National and Community Service whose mission was to "renew the ethic of civic responsibility in the United States." Full implementation began in 1992, when the commission awarded $64 million in grants to support four broad types of state and local community service efforts. These initiatives were the Serve-America programs (now Learn and Serve) which involved school-aged youth in community service and service-learning through a variety of school and community-based activities; Higher Education Innovative Projects aimed at involving college students in community service and at promoting community service at educational institutions; American Conservation and Youth Service Corps, supporting summer and year-round youth corps initiatives that engage both in- and out-of-school youth in community service work; and the National and Community Service Demonstration Models, for programs that were potential models for large-scale national service. The National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a demonstration program to explore the possibility of using post-Cold War military resources to help solve problems here at home, was enacted later as part of the 1993 Defense Authorization Act. It is a residential service program modeled on the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps and the United States military.

National and Community Service Trust Act

President Bill Clinton sponsored the National and Community Service Trust Act, a revision of the National and Community Service Act of 1990, which was passed by a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress and signed into law on September 21, 1993. The legislation created a new federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), to administer federally-funded national service programs. The law created AmeriCorps, which was designed to support local, state, and national organizations across the nation, involves Americans in results-driven community service. Individual AmeriCorps participants, known as members, serve for a year, during which they receive a living allowance. After service, members receive an education award, administered by the National Service Trust, and paid as a voucher redeemable for current education costs at colleges, universities, other post-secondary institutions, and approved school-to-work programs, or to pay back qualified student loans already incurred. The legislation drew on the principles of both the Civilian Conservation Corps and the GI Bill, encouraging Americans to serve and rewarding those who do. The new agency also took over management of the programs of two previous agencies, ACTION, which was responsible for running VISTA and the National Senior Service Corps programs, and the more recent Commission on National and Community Service, including the NCCC, forming a new network of national service programs.

Service in the New Millennium

In his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, President George W. Bush called on all Americans to serve their country for the equivalent of two years and announced the creation of the USA Freedom Corps, an umbrella network for volunteerism. A coordinating council housed at the White House and chaired by the President is working to expand and strengthen federal service programs like the Peace Corps, Citizen Corps, AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps, and to raise awareness of and break down barriers to service opportunities within all federal government agencies. Several bills have been introduced in Congress over the past three years to increase funding for national service and to reauthorize the National and Community Service Act.

On April 21, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Serve America Act reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency created in 1993. The Corporation engages four million Americans in result-driven service each year, including 75,000 AmeriCorps members, 492,000 Senior Corps volunteers, 1.1 million Learn and Serve America students, and 2.2 million additional community volunteers mobilized and managed through the agency's programs. The Serve America Act reauthorizes and expands the mission of the Corporation for National and Community Service, by: increasing opportunities for Americans of all ages to serve, supporting innovation and strengthening the nonprofit sector, strengthening management, cost-effectiveness, and accountability within said entities.  To read more, visit President Obama Signs Landmark National Service Legislation

National Service Programs

Corporation for National and Community Service Programs

Corporation for National and Community Service

The National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 initiated the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The Corporation supports a range of national and community based service programs, providing opportunities for Americans to serve as full-time and part-time stipend participants or volunteers, and as individuals or as teams.

CNCS provides opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities and the nation through three programs: AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America. Members and volunteers serve with national and community nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, schools, and local agencies to help meet pressing community needs. CNCS is part of USA Freedom Corps, the White House initiative to foster a culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility, and to help all Americans answer the President's Call to Service. CNCS fosters civic responsibility, strengthens the ties that bind us together as a people, and provides educational opportunity for those who make a substantial commitment to service.

The Board of Directors for CNCS working in collaboration with the field and staff developed a strategic plan in 2006. The focus areas in the strategic plan are:

  1. Mobilizing more volunteers
  2. Ensuring a Brighter Future for All of America's Youth
  3. Engaging Students in Service
  4. Harnessing Baby Boomer's Experience

For more information, please visit CNCS's 2011-2015 Strategic Plan.

AmeriCorps* State and National


This program's goals are getting things done, strengthening community, and encouraging responsibility. Members receive educational awards in return for service. The AmeriCorps network consists of a wide variety of diverse programs in every state of the nation.

Listed below is a current list of AmeriCorps* State and AmeriCorps* National Direct programs in Illinois. The hotline for the Serve Illinois Commission (SIC) is 1-800-592-9896.

Americorps VISTA - Volunteers in Service to America With a thirty-five year tradition of working with community groups to help low-income people help themselves, VISTA focuses on capacity building - helping local organizations develop plans, raise funds, coordinate programs, and recruit and train local volunteers to effectively serve those in need. For more information about AmeriCorps* VISTA in Illinois, contact John Hosteny at the Illinois Corporation for National and Community Service State Program Office in Chicago at (312) 353-3622, or IL@cns.gov.
Americorps NCCC The National Civilian Community Corps involves young people ages 18-24 in performing community service projects. This program is a residential service program in which members are housed and trained together on military bases, and deployed as teams to service sites across the nation. NCCC members conduct service projects with a special emphasis on protecting the environment, promoting public safety, and responding to natural disasters. The campus for Illinois is located in Vinton, IA. For more information about AmeriCorps* NCCC, Iowa campus, contact (319) 472-9655.
Learn & Service America Learn and Serve integrates service into schools through a method called "service learning," which enables young people to serve their communities through their classrooms. It provides schools, colleges, and community organizations with grants to meet community needs while improving their skills and learning the habits of good citizenship. For more information about Learn and Serve grants in Illinois, contact Mike Mangan at mmangan@cntrmail.org or Deb Huffman at dhuffman@isbe.net.
National Senior Service Corps

Or simply "Senior Corps," engages older Americans - with their great skills, talents, and experience - in addressing urgent issues facing the nation, in one of three programs:

  • Foster Grandparents, who serve one-on-one with young people who have special needs;
  • Senior Companions, who help other seniors live independently in their homes; and
  • Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteers, who work with local groups to meet a wide range of community needs.

For more information about Senior Corps in Illinois, contact the Illinois Corporation for National and Community Service Office at (312) 353-3622.

Citizen Corps The mission of Citizen Corps is to harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds. For more information about Citizen Corps, visit www.citizencorps.gov.

National Days of Service

Programs are encouraged to participate in National Days of Service.

Event Date(s) Description
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day January 17, 2011  "A day ON…not a day off" occurs on January 17, 2011 (the day of observance of the federal holiday honoring Dr. King's birth). The Corporation for National and Community Service is responsible for promoting this day as a day of service to honor the life and teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. See www.mlkday.org for more information.
Global Youth Service Day April 15-17, 2011 Over the past decade, Global Youth Service Day has brought together more than 13 million people in thousands of communities nationwide. For more information, visit www.ysa.org.
National Volunteer Week April 10-16, 2011 National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week of April 10 -16, 2011 as an annual celebration of volunteering. Every President since has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week has become the official time to recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers at the local, state, and national levels. For more information, visit www.PointsofLight.org.
Join Hands Day May 7, 2011 The goal of Join Hands Day, May 8, 2010, is to begin making connections and friendships across generations that will continue long after the day is over. Developing these relationships is essential to creating healthy organizations, neighborhoods, and communities. For more information, visit www.joinhandsday.org.
Make a Difference Day October 22, 2011 Sponsored by USA Weekend and Points of Light Foundation, is held each year on the fourth Saturday in October. See www.makeadifferenceday.com for more information.
National Family Volunteer Day November 19, 2011 The Points of Light Foundation launched the Family Matters initiative to encourage and engage families in community-oriented projects. National Family Volunteer Day is held the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year and kicks off National Family Volunteer Week as part of an annual public awareness. For more information, visit www.pointsoflight.org.
National Day of Service & Remembrance September 11, 2011 By pledging to volunteer, perform good deeds, or engage in other forms of charitable service during the week of 9/11, you and your organization will help rekindle the remarkable spirit of unity, service and compassion shared by so many in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. And you'll help create a fitting, enduring and historic legacy in the name of those lost and injured on 9/11, and in tribute to the 9/11 first responders, rescue and recovery workers, and volunteers, and our brave military personnel who continue to serve to this day. For more information, visit Join the Tribute.
National AmeriCorps Week May 7-14, 2011 National AmeriCorps week provides the perfect opportunity for AmeriCorps members, alums, grantees, program partners, and friends to shine a spotlight on the work done by members-and to motivate more Americans to serve their communities. Many events are scheduled across the country. Individuals and organizations with a special interest in AmeriCorps-especially, members, programs, and alums-are encouraged to use their creativity to mark the week in any way they see fit. The choice is up to you! For more information, visit AmeriCorp Week.


CNCS (Headquarters)

As the primary federal source of funding for national volunteer activities, CNCS is obviously the most important "player on the field". AmeriCorps operates in a decentralized manner that gives a significant amount of administrative responsibility to states and national and local nonprofit groups. CNCS realizes that the many organizations and individuals around the country with which it shares administrative responsibility for AmeriCorps will look to it for assistance on a broad range of issues and problems.

The following table suggests some of the principal support functions that CNCS the office can provide:

Program Oversees programmatic aspects of grants and awards. Program officers serve as the primary liaisons with state service commission and the National Program grantees.
Grants Oversees financial aspects of grants and awards.
Office of Leadership Development and Training Works with national technical assistance providers and with training and technical assistance coordinators in state service commissions.
Trust Manages the education awards for AmeriCorps members.
Public Affairs Oversees media relations, marketing and publications, including the online recruitment website.
Public Liaison Oversees national initiatives, national service days, and all AmeriCorps awards.
General Counsel Provides legal counsel for CNCS and can answer legal questions related to AmeriCorps program management.
Office of the Inspector General Detects and deters waste, fraud, abuse, and violations of law of CNCS funded programs.

There are two main divisions in the AmeriCorps headquarters staff: AmeriCorps*State and AmeriCorps*National. Each State Service Commission has a specific CNCS AmeriCorps*State program officer assigned as their primary liaison at headquarters; each National Program grantee has a specific CNCS AmeriCorps*National program officer assigned as their primary liaison. CNCS program officers are the frontline support for program staff, assisting with any issues that arise including locating needed information and clarifications of policy. Program officers are also the primary monitors at headquarters of how things are going in the states for which they are responsible. Program officers work closely with other units at CNCS to provide quality support to the field.

CNCS State Office

CNCS also operates offices in each state. These offices are responsible for administering AmeriCorps*VISTA projects as well as the three Senior Corps programs. The CNCS employees in these locations assist with the monitoring of National AmeriCorps programs sites, solicit and review Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service grants in their states, and participate in cross-program planning initiatives, including development of State Service Plans. One of them, usually the state office director, serves as an ex-officio member of the State Service Commission.

Visit Corporation State Offices for a listing and contact information.

Illinois Commission History

The Serve Illinois Commission

The purpose of the Serve Illinois Commission (SIC) is to promote and support volunteerism and community service in public and private programs to address the needs of citizens. The Commission is a 25-member bi-partisan Governor-appointed board. It includes representatives with experience in local government, labor, education, older adults, public health, non-profits, youth, business, volunteerism and national service. It is organizationally located within the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS).


We see an Illinois where all citizens recognize their ability and responsibility to help strengthen their communities through voluntary service. We see expanded and meaningful volunteerism throughout rural, suburban, and urban Illinois involving people of all backgrounds, cultures, and ages. We see volunteers making measurable differences in their communities because they are well trained, supported, and on the cutting edge of problem solving.


The mission of the SIC is to improve Illinois communities by supporting and enhancing volunteerism and community service.


The Commission supports volunteerism through:

  • Working with volunteer managers and volunteer centers to help community based organizations improve their ability to maximize their resources.
  • Developing informational materials to increase awareness and to provide assistance to volunteers, volunteer organizations, government agencies and the public at large.
  • Administering AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Promise Fellows, and Community Based Learn and Serve programs.
  • Enhancing service and volunteerism through awards and other recognition opportunities.
  • Assisting in training and professional development for volunteer managers.
  • Promoting awareness of, and attendance at, existing volunteer management training and networking opportunities through scholarships, newsletters, websites and promoting technical assistance for effective volunteer management.
  • Assisting communities to become involved in homeland security/community safety initiatives, including Citizen Corps.
  • Working with volunteer managers to increase the number of individuals volunteering and involved in their communities.
  • Encouraging strong partnerships among public, private, and nonprofit agencies.
  • Strengthening the statewide network of volunteer support organizations.
  • Promoting diverse programs that are representative of individuals and their communities.

Illinois Commissioner List

  • Jill C. Heise, Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) - Chicago (Chair)
  • Andrew Barbeau, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) - Chicago (Vice Chair)
  • Jane Angelis, Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
  • Don Baden, AmeriCorps East St. Louis - Fairview Heights
  • Lawrence Benito, Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights - Chicago
  • Julian Brown, Nicor Gas - Chicago
  • Mary Ellen Caron, Chicago Department of Family Support Services - Chicago
  • Jocelyn Cheng, National MS Society, Greater Illinois Chapter - Chicago
  • Merri Dee, AARP - Chicago
  • Judy Donath, RSVP for Sangamon, Menard and Logan Counties - Springfield
  • Kathy Engelken, Illinois Campus Compact - Chicago
  • Alvin Goldfarb, Western Illinois University - Macomb
  • John Hosteny, Corporation for National and Community Service - Chicago
  • Nancy Jameson, West Central Illinois RSVP - Macomb
  • Rosemary Keefe, Illinois Tool Works - Chicago
  • Christopher A. Koch, Illinois State Board of Education - Springfield
  • Howard Lathan, Chicago Area Project - Chicago
  • Michael B. Mangan, The Center: Resources for Teaching and Learning - Arlington Heights
  • Bechara Choucair, Chicago Department of Public Health - Chicago
  • Bob McCammon, Youth Conservation Corps - Lake Villa
  • Arlan McClain, Kreider Services - Dixon
  • Frederick D. Nettles, Jr., Illinois Department of Human Services - Springfield
  • Kelly Reffett, Illinois State AFL-CIO - LaSalle
  • Genita C. Robinson, Lawyers Lend A Hand - Chicago
  • Fred Rodriguez, Retired Educator - Western Springs
  • Giraldo Rosales, University of Illinois - Champaign
  • Cynthia Sims, Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
  • John Sirek, McCormick Foundation - Chicago
  • Judy Swinson, St. Mary's Good Samaritan Inc. - Centralia
  • Albert D. Tyson, III, City Colleges of Chicago - Chicago
  • Barbara Tubekis, Volunteer Centers of Illinois - Winnetka
  • Gloria Verastegui, Youth Representative - Gilberts
  • Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department - Chicago
  • Steven Wolfe, DuPage County - Glen Ellyn

State Volunteer Recognition

The Serve Illinois Commission enjoys recognizing volunteer efforts in the state. The Commission encourages programs to participate in the following recognition opportunity:

Certificate of Appreciation

Use these certificates to honor your volunteers. Space is provided for your agency to personalize this certificate. To order or re-order certificates, contact the Commission by calling 800-592-9896. There is no charge for these certificates.

* See Chapter 8 - Attachments: 1. Certificate of Appreciation (pdf)

Training and Technical Assistance

The Corporation has agreements with 20 national training and technical assistance (T/TA) providers to help meet programs' training and technical assistance needs. The T/TA provider listing is updated regularly, visit the Resource Center for a download.Programs are encouraged to contact national T/TA providers directly.

* See Chapter 8 - Attachments: 2. Training and Technical Assistance Provider List (pdf)

Commission Training

The Commission will provide various trainings for programs throughout the year. The following meetings are mandatory:

Program Director Meeting

Usually held in April and August - All program directors are required to attend these meeting, unless previously authorized by your Program Officer.

National Service Recognition Day

Usually held in October - This is a wonderful opportunity for your members to meet with other members throughout the state.  It is mandatory that all programs bring as many members as possible.

The following Serve Illinois/DHS/CNCS sponsored volunteerism and related conferences are encouraged:

Conference Description
Illinois Conference on Volunteer Administration ICOVA is a two-day event designed for those who supervise, manage, or otherwise lead volunteers. ICOVA offers professional development and continuing education through conference workshops and keynote speakers focusing on key areas of a volunteer delivery system. ICOVA also provides that much needed networking experience with peers in the field.
East Central Illinois Volunteerism Conference Professional development and training to the area's volunteer leaders from a variety of public and private/nonprofit agencies. This conference provides valuable networking opportunities, as well as quality professional development opportunities focusing on the key areas of a volunteer delivery system. ECIVC began in 2009 through a collaboration of agencies participating in the region's Volunteer Management Network.
Southern Illinois Volunteerism Conference Has existed for over 12 years in various forms to provide capacity-building training opportunities to enhance the skills of volunteer leaders and managers in the public, private, and particularly nonprofit, sectors and to provide professional development workshops for volunteers themselves.
West Central Illinois Volunteerism Conference Provides capacity-building training opportunities to enhance the skills of volunteer leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This conference provides valuable networking opportunities, as well as quality professional development opportunities focusing on the key areas of a volunteer delivery system including personal readiness, organizational readiness, engagement of volunteers, education of volunteers, and sustainability of volunteer efforts.
National Conference on Volunteering and Service National Conference organized by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Points of Light Institute each summer with an average of 4,500 participants from around the country with breakout sessions on volunteer management, community collaboration, fundraising/sustainability, financial management, AmeriCorps/CNCS programs, member development, program development and a variety of topics on the nonprofit sector in general.

The Commission will also sponsor various trainings throughout the year based on the needs of the programs for that particular year. A training survey may be sent out to programs seeking input on trainings for the current program year. All trainings provided by the Commission will be mandatory for all programs, unless otherwise noted.

If you have any requests or suggestions regarding training needs, please contact the Commission by calling 800-592-9896.


Collaboration is an intentional relationship between two or more individuals or organizations that come together to communicate, cooperate, and coordinate for the purpose of achieving common goals. These goals create shared values that enhance sustainable communities and citizen involvement.

The promotion of collaboration between the National Service Programs is a first priority in the process of creating support networks on both local and statewide levels. Creating strong, local CNCS collaborations is an important step toward creating collaborations with and among community agencies. It is especially important that members and staff of the Serve Illinois Commission, the Illinois State Corporation Office, and volunteers and staff of the national service program projects engage with organizations that include and represent low-income and other underserved individuals and communities.

Expectations for Collaboration

  • Each organization will define its own purpose and goals to accomplish, and will seek to develop partnerships that will support and enhance that vision.
  • National service programs will educate others through their networks, the definition of and expectations for collaboration.
  • National service programs will host regional community forums to begin the development of networks and collaborative opportunities.
  • National service programs will create a development of regional networks. Subsequently, there will be an increase in the percentage of national service programs that report working with community partners; such as other volunteer programs, national service programs, and volunteer centers, for the purposes of peer support and collaboration.
  • National service programs will develop collaborative goals for the community, in partnership with members of their regional network, and work together to achieve those goals. National service programs will continue to participate in networking opportunities or conferences (e.g. ICOVA, SIVC, and Service-Learning Conference).
  • National service programs will continue to invite and include other national service programs (VISTA, AmeriCorps State/National, Senior Corps, and Learn & Serve) to trainings or conferences, as appropriate
  • Ensure collaboration will promote growth for each partnering organization.
  • Be sure to create a unified structure and discuss, in detail, any assumptions or expectations in accomplishing a successful collaboration, such as:
  • Any pre-defined goals
  • Roles and responsibilities for each partner
  • Shared resources
  • Keep in mind that not every community or program will find circumstances for collaboration.