District Day with Rep. Tom Latham

Posted by Jerry Duchene Saavedra on August 10, 2011

Post by Jordan Jones, ServeNext Organizer for Des Moines:

The central Iowa chapter of ServeNext kicked off District Day a little early. One day early to be exact. On the bright, sunny morning of August 9th we were privileged to meet with Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District and his Regional Representative Michele Mustain.

Our group was a good mix of both service members and professional non-profit directors. The Foster Grandparents program was particularly well-represented. The Congressman was very respectful towards us and seemed touched by some of the stories he was told. One senior citizen told of her ongoing battle with cancer and said that her Senior Corps stipend helped her pay for her prescription drugs. Another woman described the reluctance of some businesses to hire the elderly. The Foster Grandparents program was perfect for her, she said, providing her with a way to keep her finances in order. As she told us, she wanted to work for her money and was raised “never to take a handout.”

Our professional directors informed the Congressman as to the nature of their work. One of the most unique projects they described involved the planting of a community garden, a project designed to teach children about science, nutrition and why they should eat their veggies. We also heard from a director of an RSVP program, who described the way in which budget cuts would and are hobbling their efforts to improve local communities.

As for myself, I brought up the fact that AmeriCorps members are currently deployed in Hamburg, IA, monitoring levees and safeguarding the little town from a disastrous flood. In that location, AmeriCorps members are doing some of the work normally reserved for the National Guard and local law enforcement. Needless to say, they are saving the government a ton of money.

In a closing statement, I told Rep. Latham that this “wasn’t about big government or small government, but effective government.” The CNCS provides work—and work well worth doing—to the elderly, the young and anyone in between. It fills a vital niche and is directed towards solving our most pressing problems. Nobody is looking for a handout or wanting to be a so-called “paid volunteer.” They just want to serve their communities

The Congressman seemed sympathetic to our arguments and very gracious. I hope he remembers our words when he’s back in DC.


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