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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Desiree Sayle
Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of USA Freedom Corps

December 20, 2005

Desiree Sayle
Good afternoon and happy holidays! It's a privilege to chat with you all today to discuss how Americans of any age can engage in volunteer service and care for a neighbor in need especially during the holiday season. Over the past year, the President and Mrs. Bush have engaged in several volunteer service activities. From Habitat for Humanity builds, Toys for Tots collections, and preparing meals for the homeless, they have led by example and made volunteer service a priority. And the American people are following their lead with 6.5 million more people volunteering since the President issued his Call to Service in 2002.

With that, I'd be happy to take your questions.

Leslie, from Mississippi writes:
Are you all doing anything specifically for the victims of Hurricane Katrina?

Desiree Sayle
Leslie, thank you for your vigilant interest in helping the hurricane victims along the Gulf Coast. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina struck, President Bush asked USA Freedom Corps to serve an as information clearinghouse for those who wanted to help. We partner with former President Bush and Clinton to launch a public service announcement campaign letting Americans know they could find more information on helping hurricane victims on our web site. Today, we still have pages dedicated to those who want to serve in the Gulf Coast or contribute to the efforts there. You can find more information by visiting our site,, and exploring the links on the right side of the viewing page.

Scott, from Stillwater, OK writes:
What is the USA Freedom Corps? Is it something I can join?

Desiree Sayle
Thanks so much for your question, Scott. As you may know, USA Freedom Corps is an Office of the White House created by President Bush in 2002 to promote and expand volunteer service in America. We serve as an information clearinghouse for Americans who want to find out about national service programs and who want to search volunteer opportunities. We offer the Volunteer Network, the largest existing search engine, designed to provide volunteer opportunities specific to zip codes and interest. For example, if you go to, type in Stillwater's zip code and select "Animals and Environment", it will give you volunteer opportunities in your hometown relating to the subject matter.

You can contact USA Freedom Corps any time, by e-mail or telephone, to learn more about the latest happenings in volunteer service, but you cannot join or become a member of the Freedom Corps.

Bill, from N.C. writes:
I am sure the President's and Mrs. Bush's schedules are very busy, but have they participated in any service activities this holiday season?

Desiree Sayle
Bill, their schedules are very busy, yet they regularly make time to engage in volunteer service. On Monday, December 19 both the President and Mrs. Bush participated in a Toys for Tots event in Washington, DC. They helped sort through stacks of toys and loaded items onto collection vehicles. Earlier that same morning, Mrs. Bush welcomed Cardozo Senior High School students to the White House to participate in the Youth Service Opportunities Project during which they assembled sandwiches for Martha's Table's mobile soup kitchen. To view pictures from these holiday-themed service projects, visit this link: /news/releases/2005/12/images/20051219-7_p121905kh-0660-515h.html. And to read the President's remarks at the Toys for Tots service event, click here.

This Administration's commitment to compassion and volunteer service also extends to White House staff, who on a weekly basis serve food to the homeless, read to school-aged children, and mentor youth throughout the Washington, DC area.

Olivia, from Darien, Connecticut writes:
Hello Ms. Sayle. I am 9 years old. My mother is a Volunteer at my school and my church and I would like to be a Volunteer some day myself. My question to you is: how do people become Volunteers and if the number of people that volunteer is big, how do you organize them. Thank you and Happy Holidays. Olivia.

Desiree Sayle
You’re already off to a great start, Olivia. Volunteering comes from your heart and your interest in helping others. I encourage you to visit our kids web site to find fun volunteer ideas as well as trivia and games about volunteer service and our country. My favorite volunteer idea on our kids website is visiting an animal shelter and taking homemade doggy biscuits for a furry friend ( Pick a volunteer opportunity that suits your interests and ask your mom for help! Happy Holidays to you, too!

Cliff, from Brimfield Ohio writes:
Director Sayle: After all the natural disasters and other things going on. I imagine the number of our neighbors needing helping this season has greatly increased. I read the other day that the Salvation Armys collections alone are way down and I would assume that other organizations are in the same boat. So I hope you get a lot of questions on this issue. Thank You and You have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Desiree Sayle
Cliff, I think you raise a great point. Americans are among the most generous people in the world and the holiday season is the perfect time to show your neighbors in need that you care. I encourage everyone to be extra generous – both with financial resources and volunteer time - to those organizations that work day in and day out to care for others.

Daniel, from Great Barrington, MA writes:
What do you recommend for me to do for volunteer service during the holidays? I am 15-years old. Thank you.

Desiree Sayle
Daniel, I’m inspired by your interest in volunteering over the holiday season. I think volunteer service can be contagious – once your find your service opportunity at, I encourage you to ask your family or friends to join you. The more the merrier and the more helpful!

Kim, from St. Paul writes:
Ms. Sayle,I am particularly interested in helping military families this Christmas season. How can my family and I get involved?

Desiree Sayle
First, volunteering with your family is a wonderful idea. Besides helping those in need, volunteering together strengthens family relationships.

As the President said during the Toys for Tots service project yesterday, our military is great because of the men and women who serve. And sometimes, especially during the holiday season, we should look for ways to return the favor and serve them and their families. One great example is Operation USO Care Package. On December 3, members of the White House staff joined Chief of Staff Andrew Card in assembling care packages at a USO warehouse in Virginia. Each USO Care Package contains items like a prepaid international calling card, a disposable camera, toiletries, and a generic message of support from the sender. You can find out more information about USO at

USA Freedom Corps also links to other organizations serving those in the military and their families. If you go to our web site,, you'll find more information by clicking on the "America Supports You" icon.

Logan, from Texas writes:
How would you recommend parents and educators promote kidsyouth volunteerism?

Desiree Sayle
Logan, thanks so much for taking the time to write. Here at Freedom Corps, when it comes to volunteer service, we think everyone can do something – especially our young people. America’s youth are making a difference throughout our country through their volunteer service. In fact, just last month, Mrs. Bush released a study showing that 55 percent of America’s teenagers volunteered last year (

Freedom Corps works closely with Learn and Serve America (L&S). Together with Learn and Serve, our office offers the USA Freedom Corps Kids web site ( which offers many resources for kids and youth, teachers and parents to engage in youth volunteer service and earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Freedom Corps feels that it is important to engage youth in service-learning because it is the on-ramp to developing lifelong volunteers.

Mabeline, from Oklahoma writes:
How long has USA Freedom Corps been around? Have you been the director the whole time? I was reading about your greeter program, how awesome it is the President greets 1 person everytime he travels to a city

Desiree Sayle
USA Freedom Corps was created by President Bush in 2002 to promote and expand volunteer service. The USA Freedom Greeter Program you are referring to was created in March 2002. To thank community volunteers and hold them up as a model to encourage others to make a difference, President Bush greets an outstanding local volunteer when Air Force One arrives at cities throughout the country. The President has met more than 465 volunteers since the program began. The greeters are nominated for this honor by local volunteer organizations. Each greeter receives a President’s Volunteer Service Award and a photograph with the President.

The USA Freedom Corps Greeter Program is a remarkable program, and something the President should be remembered for. It is something the President truly looks foreword to every time he lands.

Anne, from Alexandria writes:
Has consideration ever been given to encouraging companies to offer employees a couple of hours a week off to do charitable works? The government could set an example by making this offer for employees. Your website has wonderful information on it, but perhaps it should be better publicized. Congratulations on the wonderful work

Desiree Sayle
Thanks for your great question. At Freedom Corps, we are encouraging businesses to be good corporate citizens. We want more companies to know that when they promote volunteerism and giving among their employees and customers, it's good for their communities and for their businesses.

Over the past four years, Freedom Corps has worked with Business Strengthening America ( and other organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Hands On Network to advance policies that support service in companies across America. We've seen good results, with more companies reporting increases in workplace volunteerism and giving. We were very pleased to see the business community respond so generously to both the Tsunami in Asia and the Gulf Coast Hurricanes.

Your idea about offering paid leave for volunteer time is a great suggestion--some companies, like Wachovia, are already doing this. Other companies are also encouraging service and philanthropy by organizing company-wide volunteer activitites, matching employee gifts to charity, or adopting charitable causes in their community. We hope to see more of this good work in the days to come.

Desiree Sayle
Thank you so much for your questions. I encourage you all, with family in tow, to find ways to give back this holiday season. There is no better time than now to show the compassion of America. Happy Holidays!

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