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Cities of Service Awards $1 Million to 23 U.S. Cities to Implement Volunteer Initiatives That Address Pressing City Needs – Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies

Cities Will Use Funds to Launch Innovative Programs Focused on Education, Neighborhood Revitalization, Health, Sustainability, and More

After receiving a record-number of applications, Cities of Service today announced that $1 million were awarded to 23 U.S. cities in the second round of funding from the Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund. Mayors will use the funds to implement “impact volunteering” strategies that tackle pressing local challenges. Grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 will support efforts in Allentown, PA; Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Birmingham, AL; Buffalo, NY; Campton Hills, IL; Charleston, SC; Fall River, MA; Flint, MI; Hartford, CT; Hayward, CA; Kalamazoo, MI; Kansas City, KS; Louisville, KY; Mesa, AZ; Milwaukee, WI; Nashville, TN; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Richmond, CA; San Jose, CA; Utica, NY; and Washington, DC.

“With over 180 mayors in the Cities of Service coalition, the U.S. is experiencing a wave of volunteerism that is helping to address pressing local issues. By channeling the willingness of citizens to help each other – and we all have something to give – local governments are finding new ways to improve the lives of their citizens,” said New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg. “The Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund accelerates this impact by supporting and spreading impact volunteering across the country.”

More than 60 mayors applied for Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund grants to support the implementation of nearly 90 initiatives. The impact volunteering model focuses on targeting community needs, using best practices, and setting clear, measurable outcomes to gauge progress.

Cities that received first round funding in October 2012 already have shown success leveraging volunteers across a range of issue areas. For example, Fall River, MA created its first urban tree farm to support ongoing revitalization efforts; Austin, TX surveyed 10% of city-owned land to identify invasive plant species for removal to protect the local environment; and Little Rock, AR is engaging more than 3,000 elementary school students in a comprehensive anti-obesity and healthy eating initiative to improve health outcomes.

Grantee cities were selected based on the quality of initiative proposals, scale and potential for impact, and caliber of implementation plans, among other criteria.

The following cities and projects will be supported with grants from the Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund in 2014:

City, Mayor, and Volunteer Initiative(s)

  • Allentown, PA Mayor Ed Pawlowski will revitalize 50 city blocks by removing 7,500 pounds of litter, clearing illegal dumping areas, and removing graffiti
  • Atlanta, GA Mayor Kasim Reed will revitalize 50 city blocks by removing 25,000 pounds of litter, planting 250 trees and 2,000 flowers, and removing graffiti
  • Austin, TX Mayor Lee Leffingwell will engage volunteers to remove harmful invasive plants from 300 acres of public land, and revitalize 40 city blocks by removing 800 pounds of litter, creating community gardens, and clearing vacant lots
  • Birmingham, AL Mayor William A. Bell, Sr. will revitalize 60 city blocks by removing 90,000 pounds of litter, planting 300 new trees, and removing 35,000 square feet of graffiti
  • Buffalo, NY Mayor Byron W. Brown will revitalize 40 vacant lots by removing 6,400 gallons of litter, cleaning graffiti, and planting greenery
  • Campton Hills, IL Mayor Patsy Smith will train and engage volunteers to help 3,800 households and businesses prepare for emergencies
  • Charleston, SC Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. will provide one-on-one volunteer tutoring services for 100 struggling Title I elementary school students to improve grade-level literacy skills
  • Fall River, MA Mayor William A. Flanagan will revitalize 25 city blocks by removing 60,000 pounds of trash and hundreds of square feet of graffiti
  • Flint, MI Mayor Dayne Walling will revitalize 40 city blocks and 200 parcels of land by removing two million pounds of litter, creating green spaces, and boarding up abandoned houses; and help 1,200 households prepare for emergencies
  • Hartford, CT Mayor Pedro E. Segarra will support 1,000 residents in filing tax returns while also helping them open bank accounts and enroll in financial literacy courses
  • Hayward, CA Mayor Michael Sweeney will help 200 middle school youth improve their academic performance through homework tutoring in core subjects
  • Kalamazoo, MI Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell will launch three new literacy centers to help 150 adult learners improve their reading and job readiness skills
  • Kansas City, KS Mayor Mark R. Holland will increase access to healthy food by cultivating community gardens to grow 570 pounds of fresh produce while educating the community about healthy eating
  • Louisville, KY Mayor Greg Fischer will increase access to healthy food by supporting 13 community gardens and harvesting 1,000 pounds of fresh produce in target neighborhoods
  • Mesa, AZ Mayor Scott Smith will revitalize at least 12 communities by removing 10,000 pounds of waste, removing graffiti, and painting the home exteriors of residents in need
  • Milwaukee, WI Mayor Tom Barrett will improve 40 city-owned vacant properties by engaging young people to restore their neighborhoods through artistic board-ups
  • Nashville, TN Mayor Karl Dean will help 100 middle school students increase their reading skills and stay in school
  • Orlando, FL Mayor Buddy Dyer will help 175 struggling students improve their vocabulary and reading, train more than 2,000 citizens in Hands-Only CPR, and engage 700 youth in productive programming to increase career awareness and reduce crime
  • Philadelphia, PA Mayor Michael A. Nutter will provide emergency meals to 1,000 residents per week while connecting them to needed social services, and help the city meet its target of 70% waste diversion by helping city event-goers properly recycle
  • Richmond, CA Mayor Gayle McLaughlin will tutor 175 high school students to improve their writing skills and 150 elementary school students to improve literacy skills
  • San Jose, CA Mayor Chuck Reed will help 120 K-3 students increase their reading levels
  • Utica, NY Mayor Robert Palmieri will improve neighborhood pride and safety by removing graffiti from 75 sites and painting murals in graffiti hot spots
  • Washington, DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray will revitalize 25 city blocks by planting 430 trees, launching 20 new local park affinity groups, and creating community gardens

“Volunteerism has long been a hallmark of life in our city,” said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, who accepted the grant on behalf of Mesa. “We’re thrilled to be one of 23 recipients of grants from the Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund, and will use these resources to improve aging housing stock and revitalize distressed communities.”

Details of the Impact Volunteering Fund

Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund is a multi-million dollar fund that supports mayors who are harnessing the power of volunteers to address priority problems in their communities. Grants fund the implementation of volunteer-fueled initiatives that have clear outcome goals in a particular priority area.

Nearly $1 million was awarded through the first round of grants in October 2012. Grant sizes ranged from $25,000 to $100,000, with larger amounts reserved for cities with multiple initiatives. Highlights from the first round of grants include:

  • Neighborhood revitalization in Flint, MI:  Volunteers revitalized 20 city blocks and 100 blighted properties by removing over 1.8 million pounds of litter and debris from city streets and cleaning over 1,100 square feet of graffiti from targeted areas with the goal of improving livability in some of Flint’s most blighted communities.
  • Energy efficiency in Nashville, TN:  Volunteers completed more than 100 home energy efficiency improvements for low-income homeowners, reducing air leakage by 20% per home and increasing heating and cooling efficiency by up to 10%, with the goal of lowering energy costs for Nashville residents in need.

Only mayors whose cities are members of the Cities of Service coalition were eligible to apply for either round of funding on behalf of the city and its partners. The larger grant sizes were limited to cities that secured funding to support a full-time Chief Service Officer or its equivalent within local government.

About Cities of Service

Founded in September 2009 in New York City by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and 16 other mayors from across the nation, Cities of Service is a bipartisan coalition of over 180 mayors committed to addressing critical city needs through impact volunteering. American cities face serious challenges and many mayors want to take advantage of every resource available to them – including the time and energy of public-spirited residents – to address those challenges. But in cities across America today, citizen service is often an underutilized strategy by municipal governments. By leveraging citizen service strategies, Cities of Service helps mayors address local needs and make government more effective. To find out more about Cities of Service, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter @CitiesOfService.