SEATTLE, WA (March 29, 2021) – The Schultz Family Foundation, Service Year Alliance and Serve Washington, released a report today detailing learnings from the first six months of the Washington COVID Response Corps, a first-of-its-kind youth service program created to quickly respond to record levels of community need resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. The report, which follows $1 billion in investment from the federal government for AmeriCorps in the new stimulus package, describes the program, details preliminary findings from the initial implementation period and offers recommendations with the hope of expanding the innovative public-private model to additional states.
In the fall of 2020, the Schultz Family Foundation created the Washington COVID Response Corps in partnership with Serve Washington, a state commission that coordinates service efforts, to recruit young people between the ages of 17-25 to respond to unprecedented levels of food insecurity in Washington state. To date, the program has deployed 120 AmeriCorps members at 70 community nonprofits in 14 counties across the state, where 30 percent of households struggle with food insecurity and people of color are 1.5 times more likely to be food insecure than white people. During the first four months of service, AmeriCorps members participating in the program collectively completed more than 61,000 hours of service, serving more than 1 million people across Washington by providing nearly 24 million pounds of food and more than 4.7 million meals.
By sharing the model and early learnings, the report offers resources for federal and state officials, as well as non-profits and philanthropists, as they embark on expanding national service in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The innovative public-private partnership leverages AmeriCorps’ existing funding and programmatic infrastructure from federal and state governments and combines it with philanthropic resources from the Schultz Family Foundation, which is underwriting a portion of the match contributions for AmeriCorps members at organizations that have both financial difficulty and a willingness to join the coordinated one-year COVID relief program. The Schultz Family Foundation is also providing resources to make service a more viable pathway for all youth, including: increasing the cost of living stipend, offering monthly training and development, and offering access to financial assistance to address unforeseen emergencies.
Given the unique program design and the urgent need to quickly respond to community needs resulting from the pandemic, the Schultz Family Foundation and Serve Washington partnered with Service Year Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that is working to make national service a common expectation and opportunity for all young people, to publish a report to share early learnings and to offer recommendations to expand the model to additional states. The learnings include:
- AmeriCorps, and national service more generally, is uniquely positioned to respond to a moment of crisis (which has been validated and enhanced by the recent infusion of more than $1 billion for national service programs in the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act).
- Intentionally engaging with multiple sub-grantees creates a diverse network of nonprofits in the Response Corps.
- Incorporating new partners requires some flexibility in the designed model.
- AmeriCorps can adapt to address crises, but its complex structure can pose program challenges.
- Philanthropic investments should be structured to play the role of research and development partner for the public sector.
- Prioritizing equity in recruiting is critical but insufficient in creating a more diverse Corps.
In recognition of tremendous community needs, Washington COVID Response Corps is expanding its focus in the upcoming 2021-22 service year beyond solely food insecurity to address community-identified needs in those areas that have been most affected by COVID-19, including, but not limited to, learning opportunity loss, mental and physical health challenges, and gaps in basic needs. Eligible AmeriCorps programs in Washington state are encouraged to submit a response to the Request for Proposal for the 2021-22 service year.
- “The Washington COVID Response Corps has had a positive ripple effect throughout our communities. From growing and gleaning fresh produce to delivering meals straight to doorsteps, young people have stepped up, above and beyond, to give back during these challenging times,” said Tyra A. Mariani, president of the Schultz Family Foundation. “As the pandemic continues to disrupt the lives of so many, we’re eager to build on our program insights, replicate this model, and accelerate change to help even more communities in need. Our hope is that by publishing this report we will be able to start a conversation about expanding this model to additional states.”
- “When it comes to utilizing national service to boost local communities’ response to the pandemic — the Washington COVID Response Corps sets the bar incredibly high. It exemplifies how best to combine state and federal government resources with philanthropic support to stand up a program quickly and effectively,” said Jesse Colvin, CEO of Service Year Alliance. “Serve Washington and the Schultz Family Foundation’s partnership represents an innovative model that can — and should — be scaled in communities all across the country. From COVID response and fighting food insecurity to tackling learning loss and combating climate change, national service programs like AmeriCorps are an incredible asset in times of crisis. We are hopeful that other communities can learn from and replicate the success of the WA COVID Response Corps as they strive to make national service part of growing up in their cities and towns.”
- “Through our partnership with the Schultz Family Foundation, we were able to increase the number of AmeriCorps members helping tackle food insecurity and more Washingtonians were served,” said Amber Martin-Jahn, executive director of Serve Washington. “But this private investment in AmeriCorps did more than support our response to COVID-19. This investment increased the living allowance for AmeriCorps members, expanded professional development opportunities and amplified the powerful role national service can, and should play, in building a path of opportunity and service for all young people as our state’s future leaders.”
 University of Washington, 2020 Washington State Food Security Survey
About the Schultz Family Foundation
The Schultz Family Foundation, established in 1996 by Sheri and Howard Schultz, former ceo and chairman emeritus of Starbucks, creates pathways of opportunity for populations facing barriers to success, focusing on youth transitioning to adulthood and marginalized populations, including Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities. By investing in scalable solutions and partnerships in communities across the country, the Foundation aims to help tackle the barriers and roadblocks that prevent individuals from reaching their full potential and, in doing so, strengthen our communities and our nation. For more information about the Foundation and its work: schultzfamilyfoundation.org.
About Service Year Alliance
Service Year Alliance is working to make a year of paid, full-time service — a service year — a common expectation and opportunity for all young Americans. To achieve our mission, Service Year Alliance develops and documents evidence in priority focus areas to persuade decision makers to increase public and private investments in the service year ecosystem. We build coalitions and foster strategic corporate, community, and research partnerships and develop service year programs and resources in priority focus areas to strengthen the case for service years. We advance policy proposals that unlock public funds for service years to create the opportunity for all young Americans to serve. We elevate service years as an experience that transforms lives, strengthens communities, and fuels civic renewal. Finally, we manage ServiceYear.org, a technology platform that matches those who want to serve with paid service year opportunities. Learn more at ServiceYearAlliance.org.
About Serve Washington
Serve Washington, a State Commission, advances national service, volunteerism and civic engagement to improve lives; expands opportunity to meet the local critical needs of residents of Washington; and strengthens community capacity while creating healthy and resilient communities. Authorized by Executive Order #16-08, a 20-member board of Governor- appointed commissioners supports and advises Serve Washington. Learn more at servewashington.wa.gov.
This AmeriCorps funding is provided by AmeriCorps, a federal agency, that brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges through national service and volunteering. AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serve with organizations dedicated to the improvement of communities. AmeriCorps helps make service a cornerstone of our national culture. Learn more at AmeriCorps.gov.