I heartily agree with Bruce Chapman's Nov. 2 op-ed article "National Service: A Bad Idea." Volunteerism is working in America because there is little or no federal intervention. People see a problem, and they fix it; that's the beauty of volunteering. Volunteers don't have to cope with rules, regulations, unions, etc., to fix up a needy family's house or serve a hot meal to a homeless person. When you volunteer you are encouraged to do more because of the satisfaction that comes from giving freely of your time and talents. Pay will discourage volunteerism by denying the volunteer these rewards.
The federal government is so obsessed with wielding its power of the purse to correct all that is not right that it shortchanges the American people by underestimating the value of simple human will.
Starting today, I am volunteering to see that this measure is defeated, and please don't try to pay me. ROBERT S. MANNON Falls Church
Bruce Chapman's analysis of the national service bill is a blatant misinterpretation of the legislation.
At the very least, Mr. Chapman should acknowledge that the growth in volunteerism has coincided with an unprecedented growth in full-time and school-based service programs across the nation. Moreover, the bill calls for minimum-wage compensation of volunteers only when they are making a full-time commitment to service or need some minimal assistance to cover travel costs to volunteer sites. Where does Mr. Chapman get his figures that the average compensation "will amount to about $11,000, tax free"? Not only is the figure inflated, but participants will be paying taxes.
Each year, some 60,000 young people participate in full-time, summer and year-round youth corps programs as diverse as the California Conservation Corps, the City Volunteer Corps in New York and Boston's City Year. They work in hospitals and day care centers; they clean streams and rebuild city parks. And while they participate they gain new self-confidence and improve their basic skills and work habits. For many of the young people who serve, the experience is the first time they have been viewed as a resource for, and not the clients of, our social service system.
At the same time, schools and colleges across the country are providing structured opportunities for students to serve in their communities. No, these young people are not paid for their service, nor are they given vouchers for education. Most of the service opportunities that would be provided through this legislation are not paid or compensated in any way.
Does Mr. Chapman believe that providing service should remain the province of those who can afford to serve? He should recognize the democratic tradition that undergirds this bill, not relegate service to the few people of privilege in our country. JOHN H. BUCHANAN JR. Chairman People for the American Way Action Fund MARGARET ROSENBERRY Executive Director National Association of Service and Conservation Corps Washington