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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

August 28, 2006

Desiree Sayle
Good afternoon. It’s good to be back on Ask the White House.

One year ago, our Nation witnessed one of the largest natural disasters in our history as our fellow citizens in the Gulf Coast were dealt a devastating blow by Hurricane Katrina. But in the face of unimaginable tragedy, the American people overwhelmed the region with a powerful volunteer mobilization and philanthropic outpouring. These acts of compassion and generosity provided an injection of hope in the midst of the dark days and continue to serve as a bright spot in the rebuilding of the region.

When the President addressed the Nation from Jackson Square in New Orleans on the evening of September 15, 2005, he issued a call to service to all Americans: "Important work can be done by everyone, and everyone should find their role and do their part." He asked USA Freedom Corps to create an information clearinghouse, so that families anywhere in the country could find opportunities to help families in the affected region. The American people responded, and USA Freedom Corps worked aggressively to connect those who wanted to answer this call to opportunities in the affected region.

President Bush continues to follow through with the Federal commitment to do what it takes to help residents of the Gulf Coast rebuild their lives in the wake of this disaster, with $110.6 billion in Federal aid going towards relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts. USA Freedom Corps, too, remains committed to doing everything we can to support the effort.

Jonathan, from Portland, Oregon writes:
Hello Miss Sayle, thank you for taking this opportunity to speak to the public. I have a full time job as a fireman, can I still help the Freedom Corps? Thanks

Desiree Sayle
Thanks, Jonathan, for your work as a first responder.

Everyone can give back to their community, regardless of whether they work full-time, part-time, or have other commitments. USA Freedom Corps' website,, lists many volunteer opportunities that you can search in your immediate area. Any time spent volunteering is better than no time at all.

I would also encourage you to visit Fire Corps is a program to support fire departments by encouraging citizen advocates to serve in non-emergency roles. Through its partnerships with fire service organizations and local Citizen Corps Councils across the country, Fire Corps actively involves citizens in public education, training, and volunteer efforts focused on fire prevention and safety. This may be something you can help establish at your station.

George, from Pennsylvania writes:
I am assuming volunteers are still needed to help the people affected by Katrina,correct?

Desiree Sayle
Excellent question George. And the answer is yes.

In a report released this month, the Corporation for National and Community Service found that more than half a million Americans have journeyed to the Gulf Coast in the past year to volunteer in hurricane relief and recovery efforts. The figures compiled by the agency also reveal that tens of millions more people, while not traveling to the Gulf region, supported relief efforts in a variety of ways.

But, the true transformation of a stronger and better Gulf Coast will require a sustained commitment over time. In the months ahead, volunteers will continue to play an integral role in rebuilding and reinvigorating the area.

USA Freedom Corps is a great resource to find out how you can help in the Gulf Coast region or from your own hometown. You can visit the Hurricane Relief and Recovery page here:

richard, from raleigh nc writes:
What sorts of help are you looking for, over what time period, how is the program structured, and what sorts of support do you provide for your volunteers? What particular talents are in greatest demand? Why are volunteers in demand instead of contracting the job out to an institution that may be set up to do particular types of work?Corporate America works one way and loose knit groups of volunteers may behave in different ways. I have learned that proper management is important to get the most out of your people and other resources.

Desiree Sayle
USA Freedom Corps was created by President Bush to encourage more Americans to volunteer and to help connect them with opportunities where they want to serve. There are no USA Freedom Corps members; instead, we serve as an information clearinghouse connecting Americans who want to volunteer with national service programs and nonprofits. If you visit our Volunteer Network, you can enter your search criteria and the organizations that best suit your interest will appear.

As we always say, everyone can do something. Professionals who want to volunteer their time can connect with organizations like the Medical Reserve Corps, who coordinate the skills of practicing and retired physicians, nurses and other health professionals. If you’re a strong reader, perhaps you should consider volunteering your time as a tutor. All skill sets and interests can be matched with the right volunteer opportunity.

Thanks, Richard, for your question.

Daniel, from Great Barrington, MA writes:
Have students been volunteering on the Gulf Coast? Thanks.

Desiree Sayle
During the past year, both the President and Mrs. Bush have encouraged students to use their spring breaks and summer vacations as a time to volunteer in hurricane affected areas. Impressively, students have responded. A report compiled by the Corporation for National and Community found that spring break trips devoted to hurricane relief efforts brought 10,000 college students to the Gulf Coast region.

For colleges and students who still want to plan a volunteer trip to the Gulf Coast, a great resource exists. A toolkit was developed to help university students, faculty and staff prepare for group trips to help rebuild the devastated areas of the Gulf Coast region. In addition to providing practical information, the toolkit is designed to help campus organizers think through important elements of the travel and work experience such as choosing the best sites and sponsoring organizations; orienting group members for the trip, including training and education; and providing opportunities for individual and group reflection. That toolkit can be found here:

joshua, from milwaukee wisconsin writes:
do you have enough volunteers?

Desiree Sayle
Communities across the Nation can always use another helping hand. Volunteers provide new energy and a desire to make a difference. I would encourage you to visit to find out how you can give back to your community.

And as I told George earlier, volunteers will continue to play an integral role in rebuilding and reinvigorating the Gulf Coast region in the months and years ahead.

Lisa, from Wooster, Ohio writes:
How can my 10 year old become involved in the USA Freedom Corps?

Desiree Sayle
Lisa, I'm so excited to hear that you want to involve your youngsters in volunteer service. Studies have shown that those who volunteer early on in life tend to volunteer more later on as well.

USA Freedom Corps has a website designed specifically for children and youth. If you go to you can find neat ideas and volunteer service guidance. I would urge you to consider getting your children’s friends involved as well. Volunteering is always more fun when family or friends are participating as well.

Sarah, from Norman, Oklahoma writes:
Mrs. Desiree Sayle, I would like to know what is the purpose responsiblilty of the Freedom Corps and how many members are serving in it? (I am on my high school debate team and this information would really help us. Our resoultion we are debating Is should the United States Federal Government establish a policy substantally icreasing the number of persons serving in one or more of the following national programs American Corps, Citizen Corps, Senior Corps, Peace Corps, Learn and Serve in the American Arm Forces.) SO any information on how many people are serving will greatly help us. That was our Aff. can establish a plan and our Neg can find a way to refute other plans. Thank you for your time

Desiree Sayle
I’m happy to tell you that our national service programs are thriving under President Bush.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad, and a 30-year high for volunteers in the field. AmeriCorps members serve with more than 2,000 nonprofits, public agencies, and faith-based and community organizations. Since 1994, more than 400,000 men and women have provided needed assistance to millions of Americans across the nation through their AmeriCorps service. And, there are currently 2,027 Citizen Corps Councils in 56 states and territories, serving 72% of the total United States population.

Good luck with the debate team!

Joel, from Superior, WI writes:
Ms. Sayle, How many volunteers are in the region now, and how many more are needed?

Desiree Sayle
More than 500,000 Americans have journeyed to the Gulf Coast in the past year to volunteer in hurricane relief and recovery efforts, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. This figure does not included the tens of millions of people who supported relief efforts in a variety of ways from their own hometowns. Some other stats include:

  • 40 million pounds of food distributed by Catholic Charities’ Second Harvest Food Bank;
  • 6.6 million hot meals served by Salvation Army volunteers;
  • 18,725 displaced families supported by Traveler’s Aid volunteers;
  • Spring Break trips devoted to hurricane relief efforts brought 10,000 college students to the Gulf Region.

Americans answered the call to service, but there is still a lot of work to do be done in the Gulf Coast region. When I entered "Wisconsin" into our Volunteer Network search engine and selected “Hurricane Relief and Recovery” from the drop down menu, several volunteer opportunities were posted. Find out how you can help meet Gulf Coast needs.

Jeff, from Ely, Nevada writes:
What is the USA Freedom Corps, and how are they contributing to the rebuilding in the Gulf Coast?

Desiree Sayle
President Bush created USA Freedom Corps to build on the countless acts of service, sacrifice, and generosity that followed September 11th. As a White House office, Freedom Corps is charged with building a culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility in America. Freedom Corps promotes and expands volunteer service in America by partnering with national service programs, working to strengthen the non-profit sector, recognizing volunteers, and helping to connect individuals with volunteer opportunities.

We have extensive web-based resources that can be found on our homepage at, or under our Special Initiatives section.

Paul, from Leesburg,Ga. writes:
Good afternoon. I am Civil Service and would love to help. Can I be paid my regular salary and given the time off to help with the rebuild of the Gulf Coast? We have thousands of Civil Service people and that would help a great deal.

Desiree Sayle
Government employees have long been referred to as public servants, and perhaps this ethos of service is why we know that government employees also volunteer at a higher rate than other Americans. President Bush recognizes the value of service and the impact that government employees can make. So on April 27, 2006, he signed Executive Order 13401 that established a liaison for volunteer community service in federal agencies. This liaison will, among many things, work to clarify rules surrounding volunteer service.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has robust guidelines on volunteer service, and I encourage you to review those at the following link:

Thank you for your service!

Desiree Sayle
As the President thanks volunteers today in the Gulf Coast region, everyone who has contributed to the rebuilding effort should be proud. Much progress has been made, and the President remains committed to meeting the ongoing needs of the people for a better and stronger Gulf Coast.

In the months ahead, volunteers will continue to play an integral role in rebuilding and reinvigorating the area. I encourage Americans to visit our website,, to find out how they too can make a difference.

Thanks for your interest in volunteer service and USA Freedom Corps. I hope you’ll visit our website and find a volunteer opportunity for you, your family, and friends.

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