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

July 23, 2004

Desiree T. Sayle

Good morning, I.m delighted to be with your today to answer questions about volunteering and the USA Freedom Corp's Call to Summer Service.

Cassie, from Alabama writes:
Where can I find out more about different volunteer opportunities in my area?

Desiree Sayle
Great question, there are unlimited opportunities for volunteer service. Thousands of organizations list opportunities on our website by interest and geographic location at You can also find information about existing volunteer activities by calling 1-877-USA-CORPS. Also, you can look for a local Points of Light Volunteer Center by visiting Don’t forget to check out our Call to Summer Service on our website for ideas during the summer months.

Emilia, from Arizona writes:
Is there a national volunteer program exclusively for senior citizens or exclusively for children under the age of 18?

Desiree Sayle
Thanks for your question Emilia. There is a federal program specifically for our seniors. Senior Corps, which is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), engages over 530,000 seniors in service each year through programs such as RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), Foster Grandparents, and Senior Companions. Visit their website at for additional information. CNCS also administers a program called Learn and Serve America ( which is designed to encourage service learning in America’s Youth. USA Freedom Corps works closely with CNCS and other Federal Service Programs to promote volunteer service for everyone.

Kurt, from Missoula, MT writes:
Do you work at all with the Department of Education? I know several high schools or elementary schools require community service hours to graduate. Has anyone thought of making that mandatory nationwide? Any programs that promote that?

Desiree Sayle
Kurt, the President has issued a call to all Americans to volunteer 4,000 hours or two years over the course of their lifetime. Volunteering is a source of pride, builds character, and helps others. We believe everyone can do something and think it’s best to leave the decision on requiring volunteer service for students to local educational authorities.

Janis, from Jones writes:
I just saw in The Washington Times (front page of the Metro Section) that The White House interns and Freedom Corps staff helped build a playground in DC yesterday. How often do White House staff and interns volunteer in the community? Janis Jones Washington, DC

Desiree Sayle
Janis, thanks for your email question. The office of USA Freedom Corps encourages everyone to serve something greater than self. The White House staff is no exception and we have a strong volunteer force among our staff and interns. The USA Freedom Corps interns, Logan, Andrea and Brad, coordinated this service project for over 30 White House interns. They worked with KABOOM!, Home Depot, the DC Housing Authority, National Capitol Police Fund, members of the Sursum Corda community in Northwest, Washington, DC, and members of AmeriCorps *NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). This build was the last of five that AmeriCorps *NCCC held nationwide to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. Members of the White House staff are also active volunteers. In addition to their regular volunteer service staff recently participated in a playground build and have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.

Lauren, from New Orleans writes:
I recently read Karen Hughes book, Ten Minutes From Normal, about her struggle of dividing her time between her family and her service to the government. As a woman, do you face a similar struggle and who do you deal with it?

Desiree Sayle
The demands on my time are considerably less then Karen Hughes, but it can still be a struggle at times. I am fortunate to have a wonderful husband who is my partner in raising our girls - also, I am very close to my family so everyone pitches in. President Bush strongly believes that family comes first, and I have a terrific group of people that I work with at USA Freedom Corps that support me in this position, making it possible to juggle work and home a little more gracefully.

Melissa, from San Diego writes:
I know that some volunteer programs, for example, AmeriCore, have received criticism because they offer a monetary supplement to volunteers and there are many who feel volunteers should receive no money. What is your view on this and how do you justify volunteering for money?

Desiree Sayle
The majority of AmeriCorps members and all PeaceCorps volunteers work full-time in their service. In return, there are given modest living allowances or accommodation and/or education awards. These volunteers are not participating for the money. Instead, they are participating for the personal satisfaction they receive from helping others. The monetary support allows individuals of more diverse backgrounds to participate in full-time national service. The President appreciates who dedicated themselves in this way to help others.

Michael, from New York writes:
What community service have you participated in that has been most influential in your life and why?

Desiree Sayle
Michael, thanks for the question. I have been a lifelong volunteer so it’s hard to choose. I think that every volunteer experience has taught me a great deal, but I would have to say that my first volunteer experience as a Girl Scout was probably the most influential. Girl Scouts gave me a sense of belonging in the small military town of Jacksonville, North Carolina. I learned about teamwork, setting and achieving goals, appreciating the outdoors, and I learned the importance of lifelong volunteer service.

Eric, from Ft Lauderdale writes:
Two questions.
1. What are the opportunities to volunteer in a National Park? I will be in Yellowstone for over a month beginning next week.

2. Do you have to have specific skills or do they fit you based on need and your interests?

3. I am particularly interested in "Learn and Serve America." Is that still operational?

Desiree Sayle
Eric – I’m glad to learn about your interest in summer service. USA Freedom Corps launched A Call to Summer Service to highlight the many ways Americans can give back to their communities over the summer months. To find volunteer opportunities specific to Yellowstone or service in the National Parks visit the website for Take Pride in America at Or visit our website at for other volunteer opportunities this summer. There are volunteer opportunities for people of all skill levels.

Thanks also for your question about Learn and Serve America which is a very successful program. More than 1.8 million American students are engaged in service through Learn and Serve America. For more information, about this program visit

Tom, from Denver writes:
How do you become a Freedomcorps greeter? I have never volunteered, but I would volunteer if that meant I could meet the President. Tom

Desiree Sayle
Tom, when the President travels across America he is pleased to meet outstanding volunteers in the communities that he visits. We work with our federal partners and other organizations to find outstanding volunteers whose service is worthy of being recognized by the President. Today, we are thrilled to announce that the President met with his 300th USA Freedom Corps Greeter, Eric Rasmussen of Detroit, Michigan. I encourage you to get involved in volunteer service, there are many rewards.

Tim, from Charlotte writes:
What kind of volunteer jobs are there with Homeland Security? I don't have a lot of time to offer, maybe 50 hours per week max, but I that is the direction I am interested in. Regards

Desiree Sayle
Tim, thanks for the interesting question. I was privileged yesterday to be able to travel with the President to Glenville, Illinois, where he delivered remarks on Homeland Security. During his speech he mentioned one of USA Freedom Corps key components, Citizen Corps, which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security. Citizen Corps is a grassroots effort designed to engage all Americans in Homeland Security. Since its launch in January 2002, Citizen Corps has grown phenomenally and local Citizen Corps Councils now serve 50 percent of the US population. Citizen Corps encourages its members to learn how to prepare themselves and their families and friends in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster, gives them access to first aid and emergency training, and encourages them to volunteer with local first responders. I encourage you to contact your local Citizen Corps Coalition of Charlotte Mecklenburg at 704-336-7616. Or to learn more about Citizen Corps and their partners and affiliates, visit

Ross, from East Bay writes:
I've never understood the difference between Freedom Corps and Citizen Corps and AmeriCorps and PeaceCorps. Why not just make it all one volunteer group? To me it is just too confusing.

Desiree Sayle
Ross, Great question, while the names sound the same, they all have very different purposes. Citizen Corps promotes Homeland Security volunteer opportunities, AmeriCorps promotes domestic service opportunities, and Peace Corps promotes international volunteer service opportunities. USA Freedom Corps, an office within the White House, works to coordinate and strengthen these three and other federal service organizations as well as promote volunteer service as a whole.

Desiree, from Worcester, MA writes:
Hello Desiree, It's seldom I communicate with someone else who has the same name What has been your most satisfying and rewarding experience in your position as Director ?

Thanks and Regards,


Desiree Sayle
Hi Desiree, it’s not often I communicate with someone else named Desiree either. Thanks for participating in Ask the White House today. My most satisfying and rewarding experience has been to have the opportunity to promote volunteer service – something I believe in strongly. I am fortunate to work for a President who is committed to volunteer service and who has shown such great leadership. Have a great weekend.

Desiree T. Sayle

Thank you so much for participating today . I wish I had more time to answer all of your great questions. Remember, it.s not too late to find a summer service opportunity. Visit our website at Thank you again for your interest in the President.s volunteer service initiative.

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