Box 3, Folder 15, Document 10

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Box 3, Folder 15, Document 10

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NEW SLOT FOR THE VOLUNTEER
A Talk With
Joyce Black and Dr. Timothy Costello
Waiting for a bus or subway th~t · role in city government. To find out
and what the Board of Estimate does,
never comes, sending a child ·off to a
if similar bureaus could be used to adbut the subtle kinds of things: Why
school that doesn't open, or trying to
does it take so long to get things done? .
vantage in Detroit, Chicago, Los Ankeep warm in an apartment that has
Why can't you always solve a problem
geles, or even in Waterloo, Iowa, we
in
the most ration~! way? Sometimes
no heat is all part of everyday life in
met with Dr. Costello and Mrs. Black
there
are community blocks and politiNew York City. But, a new form of
in the Deputy Mayor's office, and we
cal considerations that are quite legitigovernment, which New Yorkers have
asked them:
come to· think of as " the Lindsay
mate but keep you from doing things
Why do you11se volunteers in New York's
style," has emerged. By efficiently
in what my wife would say is the
city government?
common-sense way.
using an almost untapped resource
Dr. Costello: I think there is a simple
known as "volunteer power," the naDo volunteers need any special skills?
answer and a. subtle answer. The simtion's largest and most problem~prone
Dr. Costello: Volunteerism is a very,
ple answer is that we need to render
city is surviving the urban crisis.
perhaps ten times as many service.s as
very sensitive activity requiring proBack in 1965, when the Federal govwe're able to with the amount of civil


ernment first launched its "war on


fessional skills. One of the skills re- .
quired is learning to build a demand
service people w~ have. Beyond that,
poverty," New York City's Economic
for volunteer help that doesn't outdo
Opportunity Committee (the local advolunteers bring something that you
your-supply, and that doesn't produce
ministrative anti-poverty agency)
cannot get from the person whose serfound itself inundated with offers
a demand in agencies where volunteers
/ vices you're buying. They bring spirit,
of help from numerous individuals and
don' t belong and won't be properly
I a sense of dedication, freedom from
used. The desirable thing would be to
organizations. Mrs. Ruth Hagy Brod,
j being captured by procedures, motivathen an EOC staff member, was asked
have a Director of Volunteers in every
1 tion and willingness to wor_
k - someto channel these offers into neighboragency of city government who would
I times under conditions where you
hood anti-poverty agencies.
report to us on what the agency is
l couldn't pay someone else to work.
The complexities of the city made
looking
for. We're flooded with deI don't know if this concept is origMrs. Brod'3 task a monumentally commands from agencies, many of which
inal with me, but for a little while, for
'.·plicated one and an advisory comwe don't want to meet because they're
a long while maybe, many people felt
mittee of community leaders was soon
not suitable, and many of which we
that New York was such a big, sophis'.f ormed to assist her in conducting a
can't meet because we just haven't got
ticated, cosmopolitan town, that it was
study of the patterns and potentials of
an adequate s~pply of volunteers.
nobody's home town. But that's not
/volunteerism in New York City. The
the way people feel now. They're beHow does the VCC work with city
· result of their study was this: Antiagencies?
ginning to feel that it ·is their home
poverty agencies were unable to absorb
town ; they want to be involved in it;
Mrs. Black: We tried to divide the
any significant number of volunteers,
they want to do something for it. This
Council's activities into two sectors,
but there was a great potential for
is true of big business and it's also true
with program development in _b oth the
them in almost every d~£i!!~ent of
of the people living in Staten Island,
public- sector and in the private, nonci_!¥__$0Vemment. Out of this study, the
Queens, or Manhattan. They want to
profit sector - better known as the
VE!.u,n~ C:02@.~at~ _g Co1:1_~~!1.- the
say "I'm doing something for my city."
volunteer sector. If an agency desires
- f!!_~ cent~al vo~n~er bureau_to_be coMrs. Black: We hope this kind of proour advice in developing volunteer
si:onsored by city__ g!)verz.:,.men,t..ill.d..th_e
gram will be duplicated in other cities
programs, we 'a re available, and we
voluntary sector - was born.
for similar reasons. Once you're in· - rn December 1966, the VCC was
also will seek them out if we feel that
volved with a city in the public s·ector,
officiaily inaugurated by Mayor Lindthere should be a use of volunteers
you understand many things that you
say. Deputy Mayor Timothy Costello
there. We've been very fortunate in
never understood before, and you can
was named Chairman, and Mrs. Hiram
New York because we do have an uninterpret th em to the community in a
D. Black (AJLA's Director of Region
derstanding administration and a Depmuch· better way.
·
III) was named Co-Chairman. Mrs.
uty Mayor who took us under his
Brod was appointed Director.
Dr. Costello: Maybe the point that
wing. The Council h as to fi t into a slot
During the first two years of its
is being made is a lesson in civics. I \ 1 in the city; this type of program -just
operation, the VCC h as played a vital
don't mean just where City Hall is, 11 c°an't--be off bii"its ""'o~w=n~.- -- - -
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Dr. Costello: That's right, you simply
What docs the VCC do?
th
Mrs. Black: It does two things. It re· can't graft it on to something at is
not receptive to it. It won't work. The . emits volunteers interviews them and


'CC is kind of a prototype; we're try-( ) ) re~h~~tot~i!ditiqnal ;;;-no~t~a~


m~ to :~courage c~llege st~dents _a nd '---' ditio~~l ·settii'-i~, d;pencling on what
umvers1hes to contribute their services,
k.m d o f service
· th ey wan t t o d o an d
,
but this won't work unless you ve got -. . __ w h a t th e1r
· h ours are. Bu t 1·t a1so 1s
· a
receptivity
in
the
top
level
of
admini-'
d
I
t
k
"
d
f
·
1 r;z_ program- eve opmen m o agency.


strahon all the way down. the
~
D.___
- M
· ay b e th e term ;,-mar~
. lme.
r. C_os t-e1·-1o:
riage maker" ought to come into this
Does the VCC suggest projects or placement for volunteers in other agencies?
picture, too, because Ruth Brod and the
Dr. Costello: Yes . It creates them.
people around her are frequently
matchmakers. There might be some
You've got a creative gro~p of volu'~group who have ideas for something to
teers who suggest things either because they have an idea or because I do, but they haven't got the resources.
somebody comes in and says: "Look, _,
1 They may not have a .bus to provide
this is what I can do; is there any place I transportation, they may not have the
I can do it?" That's how VCC promoney to . underwrite something, or
grams begin. You look for some place
they may not have access to somewhere the volunteer can do what he
thing. So Mrs. Brod finds somebody
wants to do. That's pretty much what
who has what the group needs and
happened with Riker's Island_ am I
puts them together. For example, in
correct, Joyce?
Operation Suburbia, she put the famMrs. Black: Yes. When men are reilies in ghettos .and the families in
leased from prison _ from Riker' s
suburban areas together, and she put
Island - very often they come out
the coffee house people (See Junior
without anything: withouf a family,
League Magazine, Sep t.I O ct. '68) towithout funds, without a heavy winter
gether with some people who had
coat. Ruth Brod was telling me the
money. The Council is always trying
other day that she had to get a winter
to spin programs off. _j__ _
coat for one of the men. He couldn't
Mrs. Black: We act as a ~atalyst. And
I think this is a word that we should
get a job either, because no one wants
use more and more because volunteer
to give a job to a newly-released pris, organizations are not going in where
oner. In a sense, the volunteer involved
they're not wanted. Not only do we
with these men is going to be involved
have to be asked to participate J:mt we
in the buddy system. Each prisoner,
also work with the people in the innerwhen he is released, is now being met
city by not inflicting or imposing any
by one of our staff people and taken
of our thinking upon them. This is
to a place where he is employed or
certainly the way of the future, and
trained by a union. We also find a
it's
the way they want it.
place for him to live, and give him
pocket money obtained from private
Many city agencies are· ' troubled with
sources to supplement him until he gets
quick changeover of personnel, money
difficulties, and a host of other problems.
his welfare check, which isn't for two
Does this make it more difficult for you
weeks after. he is released.
to find volunteers to work with them?
Dr. Costello: This is exactly where vol-:
unteerism comes in. There is no com-i ivlrs. Black: Not really. We do not put
bination of services that the city can 1 volunteers into a situation wher·e there
I
is no one to supervise and train them.
provide which would do all of these
The Council doesn' t actually train volthings: that is, reach out and obtain a
unteers; the t_raining is. done in the
job, worry about whether the man has
individual agencies.· If we went into
a coat or carfare, worry about where
,
t~ n~g, wi?d have to have a couple
he is going to sleep or eat. Because
1 of hundred people on the staff. W e
these men sometidies fail - they don't
give them only a ~11 .o rientation to
report for duty, or they goof off - the
volunteers go back and talk them into .' the fiel~ _of volunteerjsm: .
trying again. There's no service like _.Dr. Costello: Som~times the word "volthat. You simply can't buy that kind of
unteer" applies to a group of people
service anywhere.
who are part of the target population
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themselves. That is, they have an idea,
and they want to do something. So you
don't send white middle-class people
into that neighborhood to help those
people. They are already there, they
just need a little support, a little
money, a little access, a little building,
a little equipment, or whatever, to continue their own volunt~ry efforts in
their community. And that's · a new
kind·of volunteerism.
I know Ruth was very upset one day
when I suggested that maybe you
couldn't ask poor people to volunteer;
they are too busy. And she said,
"You can't deny them the opportunity
to be part of a volunteer program. Now
you may have to provide carfare occasionally, or a little baby-sitting
money, but you've got to give them the
chance to give something as well as to
take something."
Have any of your volunteers had problems in the inner-city areas?
Mrs. Black: We haven't had trouble
because we simply don't send anybody
unless they're truly wanted and 9 sked
for. Of course, the other thing is that
if. we were sending some volunteer
for a specific reason - into part of
the Haryou complex, for example we would most likely send a black person in who probably would be acc-epted. This is a complex situation.
Dr. Costello: No p sychiatrist would
ever attempt to treat a patient unless
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�all over the place: in the Rent and
Rehabilitation Department; in the Po~
lice Department, in the M ayor's Action
Center - everyplace. _
,r~
What do you see for the future? In what
direction do you see the Council moving?
-t
Mrs. Black: One of our goals is to have
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it move into other. cities. Our first
phase of operation is over - th~p_h_ase
·
- in the publi~ sector.- Now--;-·t1:1.e second
/ --phase is to more fully develop prog) am.s in ~ hich the volun_'.eer sector
' '---/4.nd t ti[""puolic;__sector. cooper_<!te. I see
··
-· ·
the -VCC moving more and more in
/
the direction of coop erative prog~~s.
r'
I also see it moving into more programs in the inner-city and into areas
where no one has ever before thought
of using volunteers.
In the future, we want a main office
in the heart of the city at City Hall,
the patient wanted help, and I think
and then we plan to d·ecentralize. We'll
the same rock-bottom principle applies
keep our central off.ice, but we also
to volunteer assistance - you don't
hope to have Borough offices. Our
impose it on anyone who hasn't asked
most recent proposal asks for fund s to
for it. That is not to say that yoi:t don't
establish
the Borough. oJfices on a mocultivate the demand . You don't sit
with a fubile ~'nit going
bile
basis,
back in your ivory tower and wait for
around
recruiting
and int ervie~ ng .
people to come. It wouldn't happen
We
feel°
thatthis
..
would
be less· exlike that. Nor would we send anybody
pensive
than
opening
an
office
in each
down to Harlem and say, "Here are
Borough. We've got a lot "of people in
some people; they' re eager; they talk
Queens 0 ho don't want to volunteer
English. Can't you use them?" No
in Brooklyn or in Manhattan and vice
good, it wouldn't happen that way.
versa. We need Borough offices .in
Does the Council do a lot of work with
order to reach all the people who really
any of the new-line poverty agencies such
want to volunteer. Maybe next year
as the Urban Coalition?
we can tell you that we have decenMrs. Black: We h ave been working
tralized. Or maybe in a couple of years .
with Urban Coalition, and Mrs . Brod
Do you feel that the Council has become
ha.s been developing volunteer proa fairly needed component in dty govern~
grams with them. Because it's just
ment? (You probably can't call it essential
getting off the ground, the Urban Coabecause volunteers are certainly not an
lition hasn't been as involved with
essential component.)
volunteers as they wished to be, or
Dr. Costello: If y ou talk about good
hope to be in the future. _Eventu ally
government in the largest sense - inthey want to have a pretty strong
volving people, and reducing the guilt
volunteer program, and they've recentthat people feel, giving them the
ly hired a D~ :_ctor of Volunteers.
chance to contribute. things that you
WJiat about MEND or UPACA or any of
can' t buy - then -it's essential. N ow
the grass roots community organizations?
if you're talking abou t the minimum
society, where you just get a minimum
Mrs. Black : Yes, we h a"e worked with
of services, and minimum involvement
t he comm uni t y organ i zati on s from citizens, then of course it's not
UPACA is one. But don't forget we are
essential. But in terms of good spi rit,
also working within th e city in public
people for
departments . When we started, we
morale, and the capacity
getting to know the other side cif life only had volunteers in the hospitals
and in the schools . Now we have them
both sides - then I think volunteerism
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of
is essential for the health of society.
No doubt about it.
Would it be safe to say that you think
volunteers are becoming a more important part of society?
Dr. Costello, I certainly do. I've been
reading Herman Kahn's book, The
Year 2,000, and he says that increasingly we are not only developing primary occupations and secondary occupations, but also tertiary occupations.
Woman's prime role is becoming less
central to her life, and less capable of
satisfying her full range of interests.
Mgst of us are going to have to find
volunteer activities in order to fulfill
all the capacities and needs we have.
It's going to become Increasingly important, not only in terms of what the
city needs, but in terms of what the
individual needs.
People are getting less personal satisfaction than they used to because
they're becoming mechanized or automated; the human element is taken out
of them. You have that kind of a job;
so you earn your living that way. But
you really satisfy yourself on what you
plan to do on a voluntary basis, because you've got some command of
what is going to take place there.
Do ·you think the role of the volunteer in
government will be increasing - not just
in New York City, but in other cities, and
possibly on the national level?
Dr. Costello: We distinguish ourselves
from the. national level because certainly it' s hard to bring volunteers
from all over the country to Washington. And the · Federal government
· doesn' t get represented in any dramatic
way at the city level. I think the cities
are the places where you can r eally do
~ - I -~-;uld °"s-ay that ihvecanget
other cities to do what we've been doing, and if we can continue to build
relationships between different segments of society by h aving volunteers
from these various groups work together, then we've made a mighty contribution. You can legislate integration. You can kind of force it by housing. But the real integration comes
wh en people ch oose to work together
on a problem and solve common goals.
And, this is something th at can be
accomplished by volunteerism alone.
Barbara Bo nat and Christine Rodriguez
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