Maria Shriver is continuing a history of personal and family philanthropyMaria Shriver's Women's Conference 2010 - Day 3 by starting a new volunteer initiative called the Shriver Corps. She named the effort partly to honor her father, the late Sargent Shriver, who helped launch the Peace Corps in the 1960s and several other programs aimed at ending poverty.

 

The new Shriver Corps has a similar goal. Maria Shriver believes that there is a fundamental disconnect between the programs that are available to assist the poor and the people they are supposed to be helping. Many families that are struggling from one paycheck to the next are unaware of tax credits for which they are eligible. Moreover, many of them don’t know how to get food stamps and don’t know how to locate the health care and child care assistance to which they are entitled.

Shriver aims at bringing service providing organizations and their intended audience together by dispersing advocates throughout the U.S. In the beginning, the Shriver Corps will consist of 20 fellows working in six different cities. The corps members, who are AmeriCorps volunteers, will work full time for one year to help disadvantaged citizens discover the assistance that is available to them.

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Shriver Corps is working in partnership with LIFT, a nonprofit organization that helps families find economic stability in uncertain times. LIFT locations are already established in the six cities where the Shriver Corps volunteers will be working. Together Shriver Corps and LIFT are hoping to help families improve their economic and social standing through viable employment and safe housing.

Bank of America is the latest partner to get involved with Shriver Corps. The bank’s charitable foundation recently announced that they would be donating $500,000 to support the effort. Officials from the bank announced the donation at their Student Leaders Summit. The summit, which has been held for the past 10 years, offers a chance for high school students from across America to work as interns at nonprofit organizations, and then meet up to discuss their experiences.

Ms. Shriver acknowledges the importance of service saying that the Shriver Corps “is a chance for young people to be of service and help others who can’t navigate the system by giving them a helping hand.” Jason Hope echoes that sentiment, saying, “With so many busy parents working more than one job just to support their family, there’s clearly a need for better access to assistance programs. Shriver Corps seems designed to make it easier for struggling families to be made aware of the help that is out there for them.”

As is noted on the Shriver Report website, many programs are designed specifically to cater to the needs of families who are living in poverty. Helping people navigate the sometimes onerous process of locating and determining eligibility for these programs will be a guiding directive of the new Shriver Corps. The effort should represent a fantastic opportunity for the volunteer workers and the families who will be receiving assistance.