Bush's aide lauds volunteer organization

CLEVELAND (AP) - A top aide to President Bush says a local organization that gets businesses involved in volunteerism could be a model for the rest of the country.

Alice Korngold, founder and chief executive officer of Business Volunteers Unlimited, said the endorsement could help fulfill her dream of expanding the organization nationwide.

John Bridgeland, director of USA Freedom Corps, which is run out of the White House, is encouraging business leaders to get their customers, employees and colleagues to answer the president's call to volunteer.

Businesses are receptive to volunteerism, but they often don't know how to get started, Bridgeland said. That's why he tells them about Business Volunteers Unlimited.

In the last 10 years, the group has trained and placed more than 700 corporate leaders on 240 nonprofit agency boards that needed their expertise.

The Business Volunteers Unlimited model has been copied in Lorain and Baltimore, and Korngold is working with six more cities interested in doing the same.

Bridgeland told a Cleveland group of more than 165 business and nonprofit leaders Monday that research shows a 30-year decline in volunteerism.

The research was done by Robert Putnam for his book "Bowling Alone." It also showed the biggest barriers to volunteerism are time constraints and other limitations imposed by the workplace.

But those barriers are falling, Bridgeland said. He met an Ohioan whose employer gave him three hours a week and transportation from work so he could tutor a kindergartner. The girl became the first in her family to learn to read.

"It's powerful the impact one person can have," Bridgeland said.

Bridgeland also started a movement Monday called Business Strengthening America, a national organization of businesses encouraging customers, employees and peers to volunteer.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car of Northeast Ohio signed up as a member, offering its full- and part-time employees a chance to earn two "community care" days to spend volunteering, said Kevin Keene,
vice president and general manager.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)