The White House
President George W. Bush
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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
Freedom Corps Director
April 21, 2004

Desiree Sayle
Hi, it's great to be on Ask the White House today to celebrate National Volunteer Week. I look forward to taking your questions.

Jessica, from New Haven, CT writes:
Have you met the President? How does he feel about volunteering?

Desiree Sayle
Great question Jessica, Yes, I've met the President, he’s a strong leader and I’m honored to be a member of his staff. The President is committed to volunteer service, which is why he created USA Freedom Corps at the White House and issued his Call to Service - a call for every American to dedicate two years or 4,000 hours over the course of their lifetime to volunteer service.

Helen, from Los Angeles, CA writes:
I thought volunteering about about helping other people and donating your time, not about awards and getting recognized. I always find it funny when volunteers receive awards when they are "supposed" to be doing it to help others not for their own achievement. Then people put it on their resume, as a resume builder. Can you respond to this?

Desiree Sayle
Volunteers do help the organizations and people they serve. Recent studies show that individuals don’t volunteer because they were never asked. The purpose of the President’s Volunteer Service Award is to recognize the millions of volunteers who are helping out in their communities. Those volunteers serve as an example to others. By recognizing them, we seek to inspire those volunteers to ask their family and friends to serve and energize others.

Barbara, from Long Island writes:
How is giving money different from volunteering? volunteering sounds like too much of a committment.

Desiree Sayle
Many organizations need man-hours as much as they need financial resources. On average, one hour of volunteer time is worth the equivalent of twenty dollars to the organization. Volunteering can be a commitment, but I believe that if you make a commitment to a project or an organization that is special to you, you will find that it is extremely rewarding and worth every bit of time of time you can spare. Thank you Barbara.

Eddie, from GA writes:
When is the last time you volunteered?

Desiree Sayle
Eddie, good question, I have been a long time volunteer with a number of different organizations. I’ve mentored, participated in walk-a-thons and I’m currently volunteering with a local non-profit. This past Sunday, I helped build a playground for a non-profit child care center in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. alongside representatives from AmeriCorps*NCCC, The Home Depot, KaBOOM!, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and other White House staff members.

Kenny, from AZ writes:
I volunteered once, and had a good time, but it took up my whole spring break. What else could I do to help others?

Desiree Sayle
Great job, Kenny! I’m glad to learn that your spring break was a rewarding volunteer experience. Of course there are other opportunities that don’t require as much of a time commitment. Everyone can do something and we have a lot of opportunities on our website at that will fit your schedule.

Kelly, from OK writes:
Do you watch American Idol? If so, who do you want to win?

Desiree Sayle
I watch sometimes – the guy with the red hair would get my vote.

Alison, from Cleveland writes:
How can young people get involved? I'm 14 and don't have a car and both my parents work. I would like to volunteer, what other things can I do besides doing something where I have to travel?

Desiree Sayle
Alison, there is plenty that you can do to help. See if your parents can help you find an opportunity in your neighborhood or look on our website for ideas. Some things that come to mind are helping an elderly neighbor, cleaning a park, or raising funds for a local charity – your talents and enthusiasm are all that are required. Keep track of your hours so that you can qualify for the President’s Volunteer Service Award for kids.

Bonnie, from Hawaii writes:
Does the President or First Lady ever take time to volunteer? I know they are busy, but so am I, so just wondering if they find the time.

Desiree Sayle
Hi Bonnie, yes, the President and Mrs. Bush are busy, but they do still find time to volunteer because it’s something they believe in strongly. President Bush has participated in two Habitat for Humanity builds and frequently volunteers while he is on the road as he will this week in Maine and Florida. Mrs. Bush also volunteers her time and recently helped out at Martha’s Table, a local food bank.

Don, from NY writes:
What is the difference between Freedom Corps, Americorps and Citizencorps?

Desiree Sayle
USA Freedom Corps is a coordinating council at the White House established by the President to help Americans answer his Call to Service. AmeriCorps is a domestic service corps that engages more than 50,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. AmeriCorps members tutor and mentor youth, build affordable housing, teach computer skills, clean parks and streams, run after-school programs, and help communities respond to disasters. CitizenCorps is a new program established shortly after 9-11 and designed to help educate Americans and train volunteers to help in the event of a natural disaster or homeland security threat

Deanna, from St. Paul writes:
Can you tell me the history behind National Volunteer Appreciation week?

Did the White House declare the observance? When? Why?

I would like to provide this information to our organization's volunteers as a way of contextualizing the honor.

Thank you.

Desiree Sayle
Great question, Deanna. The President proclaimed April 18 – 24, 2004 as National Volunteer Week – a time set aside to recognize the efforts of the nearly 64 million Americans who volunteer and to encourage other to answer the President’s Call to Service. The week was first proclaimed by President Richard Nixon and every president since then. Click here to read this year’s National Volunteer Week proclamation.

Richard, from Alexandria, VA writes:
Desiree, you are doing such a great job. How can a senior citizen get involved on a part time basis? Love, Dad

Desiree Sayle
Hi Dad. Seniors are among the Nation’s most valuable volunteers because they bring their life experiences to their volunteer service. Last year there were over 500,000 SeniorCorps volunteers additionally, seniors serve in the Peace Corps and in AmericCorp*VISTA. In addition to these national volunteer opportunities, many local organizations are looking for talent and flexible time. Check out our website at for more information or call me tonight at home.

Stacy, from Norman, Oklahoma writes:
How involved does the President actually get with freedom corps? Not to be skeptical, but I haven't seen much involvement.

Desiree Sayle
He is very involved. As an example, every time he travels outside the Washington, D.C. area, President Bush meets with a USA Freedom Corps greeter, an individual who has demonstrated exemplary volunteer service in their community. President Bush has met with over 270 volunteers since the inception of USA Freedom Corps. Additionally, the President thanks the greeter for their service to America in almost every speech. Visit our website for information about our greeters and the President’s involvement with our office.

Ed, from Dallas, Texas writes:
My wife and I would like to volunteer to work in out community, but don't have a great idea of what sort of options there are for us to do. What is the best way to determine what charity needs volunteers the most? We don't want to wind up helping one organization that may not need us as much as another.

Desiree Sayle
Great question, in your area, you can contact the Volunteer Center of North Texas 214-826-6767. Julie Thomas who runs the center is a member of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. The center will be able to give you qualitative information about volunteer opportunities in Dallas. You should also look at our website. A few key things to remember when you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity – find things that you are passionate about, be realistic about your commitment, and ask friends to share their volunteer experiences.

Brandon, from South Haven Elementary School writes:
Do you know who ran against James K. Polk for president?

Desiree Sayle
Am I giving you the answer to your homework? In the 1844 campaign, the Whigs nominated Henry Clay!

Desiree Sayle
It's been a pleasure to answer your questions today - please visit the USA Freedom Corps website for additional information about the President's volunteer initiative and service opportunities. Everyone can do something to help in their communities! Also, visit Ask the White House on Friday to chat with a member of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation producer and actor Sean Astin from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Rudy, and The Goonies, etc.

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