Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Volunteers sought in workplace



By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DOWNTOWN - Trying to reach Americans where they spend most of every day - the workplace - President Bush's chief volunteer recruiter came to Cincinnati Tuesday asking local workers to devote more hours to charities and community service.

Unveiling the "Business Strengthening America" program, John Bridgeland said the program was the next phase in reaching all Americans to foster a post-Sept. 11 culture of service.

Bridgeland is director of the USA Freedom Corps, created by Bush to coordinate volunteer efforts.

"If we don't go to the workplaces, we're never going to create the full culture of service we hope to," Bridgeland told a breakfast gathering at the Bankers Club.

"I can tell you that 9-11 has been a transforming event for this country, and we are building a culture of service and citizenship that's going to last."

Several Cincinnati companies are among the 650 nationally that have joined Business Strengthening America so far. The group hopes to reach 1,000 members by the end of this year, executive director Meagan Campion said.

Executives pointed to several local examples of corporate volunteer programs. Employees at GE Aircraft Engines in Evendale volunteered about 200,000 hours last year. And Federated Department Stores' Partners in Time effort has grown to 60,000 total volunteers and 3,100 individual projects last year, company chairman Jim Zimmerman said.

"Our employees see Partners in Time as a benefit, an easy, organized way to get involved," Zimmerman said. "It's paid off in sales, recognition and pride."

Local programs include the Greater Cincinnati Corporate Voluntarism Council. That group is holding a "boot camp" Jan. 15 to encourage more participation. For more information, call Robert Bell of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati at 762-7235.

E-mail cpeale@enquirer.com



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