A COUPLE of interesting proposals, intended to help more than 100 neighborhood groups throughout the country, are being voted on today by members of the the House Education and Labor Committee. Already passed by the Senate Human Resources Committee, they are amendments to legislation extending the life and budget of ACTION, the federal agency handling such volunteer-service programs as VISTA, Peace Corps and Retired Senior Volunteer Program. One proposal, for an Urban Volunteer Corps, would work this way: An ACTION staff member in a particular city would find 1) an accountant (let us say) who was interested in volunteering record-keeping and auditing services and 2) a community group that needed those services - and then match the two. The group would receive professional accounting assistance, and the volunteer would be able to devote as much - or as little - time as the task required. To cover the inevitable costs of managing this type of volunteer program, ACTION also proposes to create a Good Neighbor Fund, to pay for local transportation, materials, supplies and other administrative costs.
The second proposal is called - forgive us - the Mayor's Street-Level Anti-Crime Package. It is a plan to assist neighborhoods that have severe crime problems. Neighborhood centers dealing with such things as alcohol or drug-abuse treatment, counseling of rape victims and suicide prevention would be given small grants to strengthen their programs and to improve their services, under the direction of local officials and community leaders. As in the case of the volunteer corps, this anti-crime effort would need money to cover administrative costs, though some of the tab would be picked up by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration of the Justice Department.
All told, the Urban Volunteer Corps and the anticrime program would reach about 150 cities and cost a little less than $50 million (ACTION's current budget for domestic activities is about $118 million). Almost all of ACTION's domestic programs are based on the idea of matching community needs to the skills of "professionals," and these proposals are no exception. The difference here is that the new activities would allow individuals to volunteer their time, even if only for a few hours a week,instead of pledging themselves to two full years of volunteer service. That's an idea, in our view, worth supporting.