Whether it's stamping out fires in the American west or cleaning up after a tornado in Wisconsin last week, volunteers are essential to US society.
The outpouring of giving by Americans after Sept. 11 seems to be continuing apace. A Washington Post survey last week found that a renewal of faith in humanity has largely persisted over the past year. VolunteerMatch, a group hooking up volunteers with charities, says its referrals are up more than 70 percent, while Peace Corps applications are up 40 percent. Online applications to AmeriCorps are up nearly hundredfold.
President Bush has played a strong role in this trend by asking Americans to give 4,000 hours apiece over their lifetimes in service of some kind to their country. He recently called for a "September of Service" to help honor victims of last year's terrorist tragedy.
But his effort to get Congress to pass a "citizen service" bill is faltering. The bill, among other things, reauthorizes the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and its volunteer programs, including AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.
The bill passed a committee vote, but some senior Republicans don't like endorsing AmeriCorps, which was started by former President Clinton, especially before the November election. But instead of fixating on the politics of the past, the House should vote on the Bush initiative soon.
As Leslie Lenkowsk, the chief executive of CNCS, says, the country still has a great need for volunteers. Congress can play its part in keeping the volunteer momentum going.