A New Era of Service Across America

During this economic crisis, the President says, the need for an army of volunteers is more urgent than ever

Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

Obama lends a hand at Sasha Bruce Youthwork in Washington on Jan. 19

I started my career more than two decades ago as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, working with churches to help neighborhoods that had been devastated by plant closings. Block by block, we fought to create job-training programs, improve housing conditions and help people live their lives with some measure of dignity. And eventually, I realized that I wasn't just helping other people — through service, I also found a community that embraced me, a church to belong to and the direction I'd been seeking. Through service, I found that my own story fit into a larger American...

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