by Christopher Hodapp
Are members of your lodge especially active in volunteering in your community? Or are you looking for ways to get your lodge involved in local volunteer programs to help your town or neighborhood? For many years, Americorps and the Points of Light global network have jointly awarded the President's Volunteer Service Awards to hundreds of individuals and organizations all over the U.S. in recognition of their dedication and service to local communities. Masons and Masonic lodges are among the different types of civic, social, religious and non-profit organizations that qualify for the award.
From the program's website:
In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too.
The PVSA has continued under each administration since that time, honoring the volunteers who are using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation. Led by the AmeriCorps and managed in partnership with Points of Light, this program allows Certifying Organizations to recognize their most exceptional volunteers.
In order for a lodge to participate and make its members eligible, it must become a Certifying Organization by filling out an application and taking a short quiz to be sure you understand the program's requirements.
A Certifying Organization is an organization that has been granted authority through an application and review process to give out the PVSA to volunteers. Certifying Organizations verify and certify that a volunteer has met the requirements to receive a PVSA within a 12 month period specified by the Certifying Organization. Only Certifying Organizations can certify volunteers’ eligibility for the PVSA and order awards.
Certifying Organizations must be established and operate in the United States, its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands), or on overseas U.S. military and state installations. Additionally, Certifying Organizations must receive or facilitate volunteer service.
The award has several different levels, depending upon how many hours in a 12-month period are provided by an individual or (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Lifetime) for "unpaid acts of volunteer service benefitting others."
In the agreement, your lodge becomes a certifying organization that keeps careful track of how many hours are volunteered, who performed that service, and reporting them to the awards program. The lodge also agrees to cover the cost of the award package itself, which, if you go whole hog on the options, costs less than $30. The award can include the official President’s Volunteer Service Award pin, coin, or medallion; a personalized certificate of achievement; and letter signed by the President.
Once the proper level of hours is reached, the lodge nominates that member for the award, and confers it when it arrives. The award is also accompanied by a congratulatory letter from the sitting President of the United States. Before anyone starts caterwauling about presidential politics, understand that every president since George W. Bush has supported this program. It is a completely non-partisan program designed to recognize and reward volunteerism, and Americorps relies on you as their certifying organization to tabulate the hours and apply for the awards.
Also have a look at the Points Of Light Global Network website for ways to get your local lodge involved in civic volunteerism. Groups like United Way work with churches, lodges and other similar groups to pair volunteers with programs in the community.