Box 3, Folder 15, Document 10

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A Talk With
Joyce Black and Dr. Timothy Costello

Waiting for a bus or subway that -

never comes, sending a child off to a
school that doesn’t open, or trying to
keep warm in an apartment that has
no heat is all part of everyday life in
New York City. But, a new form of
government, which New Yorkers have
come to think of as “the Lindsay
style,” has emerged. By efficiently
using an almost untapped resource
known as “volunteer power,” the na-
tion’s largest and most problem-prone
city is surviving the urban crisis.

Back in 1965, when the Federal gov-
ernment first launched its “war on
poverty,” New York City’s Economic
Opportunity Committee (the local ad-
ministrative anti-poverty agency)
found itself inundated with offers
of help from numerous individuals and
organizations. Mrs. Ruth Hagy Brod,
then an EOC staff member, was asked
to channel these offers into neighbor-
hood anti-poverty agencies,

The complexities of the city made
Mrs. Brod’s task a monumentally com-
‘plicated one and an advisory com-
mittee of community leaders was soon
formed to assist her in conducting a
‘study of the patterns and potentials of
volunteerism in New York City. The
result of their study was this: Anti-
poverty agencies were unable to absorb
any significant number of volunteers,
but there was a great potential for
them in almost every department of
city government. Out of this study, the
Volunteer Coordinating Council — the

~| first central volunteer bureau to > be co-

sponsored by city government and the
voluntary sector — was born.

In December 1966, the VCC was
officially inaugurated by Mayor Lind-
say. Deputy Mayor Timothy Costello
was named Chairman, and Mrs. Hiram
D. Black (AJLA’s Director of Region
III) was named Co-Chairman. Mrs.
Brod was appointed Director.

During the first two years of its
operation, the VCC has played a vital


role in city government. To find out
if similar bureaus could be used to ad-
vantage in Detroit, Chicago, Los An-
geles, or even in Waterloo, Iowa, we
met with Dr. Costello and Mrs. Black

in the Deputy Mayor’s office, and we
asked them:

Why do you use volunteers in New York's
city government?

Dr. Costello: I think there is a simple
answer and a.subtle answer. The sim-
ple answer is that we need to render
perhaps ten times as many services as
we're able to with the amount of civil
service people we have. Beyond that,
volunteers bring something that you
cannot get from the person whose ser-
vices you’re buying. They bring spirit,
\a sense of dedication, freedom from
| being captured by procedures, motiva-
| tion and willingness to work — some-
times under conditions where you
couldn’t pay someone else to work.

I don’t know if this concept is orig-
inal with me, but for a little while, for
a long while maybe, many people felt
that New York was such a big, sophis-
ticated, cosmopolitan town, that it was
nobody’s home town. But that’s not
the way people feel now. They’re be-
ginning to feel that it is their home
town; they want to be involved in it;
they want to do something for it. This
is true of big business and it’s also true
of the people living in Staten Island,
Queens, or Manhattan. They want to
say “I’m doing something for my city.”
Mrs. Black: We hope this kind of pro-
gram will be duplicated in other cities
for similar reasons. Once you’re in-
volved with a city in the public sector,
you understand many things that you
never understood before, and you can
interpret them to the community ina
much’ better way.

Dr. Costello: Maybe the point that
is being made is a lesson in civics. I
don’t mean just where City Hall is,


and what the Board of Estimate does,
but the subtle kinds of things: Why

does it take so long to get things done? |

Why can’t you always solve a problem
in the most rational way? Sometimes
there are community blocks and politi-
cal considerations that are quite legiti-
mate but keep you from doing things
in what my wife would say is the
common-sense way.

Do volunteers need any special skills?

Dr. Costello: Volunteerism is a very,
very sensitive activity requiring pro-
fessional skills. One of the skills re-
quired is learning to build a demand
for volunteer help that doesn’t outdo
your supply, and that doesn’t produce
a demand in agencies where volunteers
don’t belong and won’t be properly
used. The desirable thing would be to
have a Director of Volunteers in every
agency of city government who would
report to us on what the agency is
looking for. We're flooded with de-
mands from agencies, many of which
we don’t want to meet because they’re
not suitable, and many of which we
can’t meet because we just haven’t got
an adequate supply of volunteers.

How does the VCC work with city

Mrs. Black: We tried to divide the
Council’s activities into two sectors,
with program development in both the
public sector and in the private, non-
profit sector — better known as the
volunteer sector. If an agency desires
our advice in developing volunteer
programs, we are available, and we
also will seek them out if we feel that
there should be a use of volunteers
there. We've been very fortunate in
New York because we do have an un-
derstanding administration and a Dep-
uty Mayor who took us under his
wing. The Council has to fit into a slot
in the city; this type of program just

| can't be off on its own,


is aes


ed A et

Dr. Costello: That’s right, you simply
can’t graft it on to something that is
not receptive to it. It won't work. The
VCC is kind of a prototype; we're try-,

ing to encourage college students and —

universities to contribute their services,
but this won’t work unless you've got _
receptivity in the top level of admini-,
stration all the way down the line.

Does the VCC suggest projects or place-
ment for volunteers in other agencies?

Dr. Costello: Yes. It creates them.
You've got a creative group > of volun-
teers who suggest things either be-
cause they have an idea or because
somebody comes in and says: “Look,
this is what I can do; is there any place |
I can do it?” That’s how VCC pro-
grams begin. You look for some place
where the volunteer can do what he
wants to do. That’s pretty much what
happened with Riker’s Island — am I
correct, Joyce?

Mrs. Black: Yes. When men are re-
leased from prison — from Riker’s
Island — very often they come out
without anything: without a family,
without funds, without a heavy winter
coat. Ruth Brod was telling me the
other day that she had to get a winter
coat for one of the men. He couldn’t
get a job either, because no one wants
to give a job to a newly-released pris-
oner. In a sense, the volunteer involved
with these men is going to be involved
in the buddy system. Each prisoner,
when he is released, is now being met
by one of our staff people and taken
to a place where he is employed or
trained by a union. We also find a
place for him to live, and give him
pocket money obtained from private
sources to supplement him until he gets
his welfare check, which isn’t for two
weeks after he is released.

Dr. Costello: This is exactly where vol-'
unteerism comes in. There is no com-.

bination of services that the city can
provide which would do all of these
things: that is, reach out and obtain a

_ job, worry about whether the man has 3
a coat or carfare, worry about where

he is going to sleep or eat. Because
these men sometimes fail — they don’t
report for duty, or they goof off — the
volunteers go back and talk them into
trying again. There’s no service like
that. You simply can’t buy that kind of
service anywhere.


What does the VCC do?

Mrs. Black: It does two things. It re-
~ cruits volunteers, interviews them, and
) jrefers them ‘to traditional or non-tra-

ditional settings, depending on what

kind of service they want to do and
~ what their hours are. But it also is a
/ 2 program- -development k kind of agency.

"Dr Costello: Maybe the term “mar-

riage maker” ought to come into this
picture, too, because Ruth Brod and the
people around her are frequently
matchmakers. There might be some
group who have ideas for something to
do, but they haven’t got the resources.
They may not have a bus to provide
transportation, they may not have the
money to underwrite something, or
they may not have access to some-
thing. So Mrs. Brod finds somebody
who has what the group needs and
puts them together. For example, in
Operation Suburbia, she put the fam-
ilies in ghettos and the families in
suburban areas together, and she put
the coffee house people (See Junior
League Magazine, Sept./Oct. “68) to-
gether with some people who had
money. The Council is always trying
to spin programs off. _|

Mrs, Black: We act as a catalyst. And
I think this is a word that we should
use more and more because volunteer
\organizations are not going in where
they’re not wanted. Not only do we
have to be asked to participate but we
also work with the people in the inner-
city by not inflicting or imposing any
of our thinking upon them. This is
certainly the way of the future, and
it’s the way they want it.

Many city agencies are ‘troubled with
quick changeover of personnel, money
difficulties, and a host of other problems.
Does this make it more difficult for you
to find volunteers to work with them?

‘Mrs. Black: Not really. We do not put
‘ volunteers into a situation where there
is no one to supervise and train them.
The Council doesn’t actually train vol-
' unteers; the training is, done in the
\ individual agencies. If we went into
‘ training, we’d have to have a couple
| of hundred people on the staff. We
_ give them only a small orientation to
the field of volunteerism.
_Dr. Costello: Sometimes the word “vol-
unteer” applies to a group of people
who are part of the target population


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 con-
tinue their own voluntary efforts in
their community. And that’s a new
kindof 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 oc-
casionally, 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 prob-
lems 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 asked
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 per-
son in who probably would be ac-
cepted. This is a complex situation.

Dr. Costello: No psychiatrist would
ever attempt to treat a patient unless


: a


the patient wanted help, and I think
the same rock-bottom principle applies
to volunteer assistance — you don’t
impose it on anyone who hasn’t asked
for it. That is not to say that you don’t
cultivate the demand. You don’t sit
back in your ivory tower and wait for
people to come. It wouldn’t happen
like that. Nor would we send anybody
down to Harlem and say, “Here are
some people; they’re eager; they talk
English. Can’t you use them?” No
good, it wouldn’t happen that way.

Does the Council do a Jot of work with
any of the new-line poverty agencies such
as the Urban Coalition?

Mrs. Black: We have been working
with Urban Coalition, and Mrs. Brod
has been developing volunteer pro-
grams with them. Because it’s just
getting off the ground, the Urban Coa-
lition hasn’t been as involved with
volunteers as they wished to be, or
hope to be in the future. Eventually
they want to have a pretty strong
volunteer program, and they've recent-
ly hired a Director of Volunteers.

What about MEND or UPACA or any of
the grass roots community organizations?

Mrs. Black: Yes, we haye worked with
the community organizations —
UPACA is one. But don’t forget we are
also working within the city in public
departments. When we started, we
only had volunteers in the hospitals
and in the schools. Now we have them

all over the place: in the Rent and
Rehabilitation Department, in the Po-
lice Department, in the Mayor's Action
Center — everyplace. .

What do you see for the Future? In what
direction do you see the Council moving?

Mrs. Black: One of our goals is to have
it move into other cities. Our first

~ phase of operation is over — the phase

dof, ere volunteer oe eae

oe the publics sector cooperate. I see

the VCC moving more and more in
the direction of cooperative programs.
I also see it moving into more pro-
grams 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,
and then we plan to decentralize. We'll
keep our central office, but we also
hope to have Borough offices. Our
most recent proposal asks for funds to
establish the Borough. offices on a mo-
bile basis, with a mobile unit going
around recruiting and interviewing.
We feel that this would be less ex-
pensive than opening an office in each
Borough. We’ve got a lot of people in
Queens who don’t want to volunteer
in Brooklyn or in Manhattan and vice
versa. We need Borough offices .in
order to reach all the people who really
want to volunteer. Maybe next year
we can tell you that we have decen-
tralized, Or maybe in a couple of years.

Do you feel that the Council has become
a fairly needed component in city govern-
ment? (You probably can’t call it essential
because volunteers are certainly not an
essential component.)

Dr. Costello: If you talk about good
government in the largest sense — in-
volving people, and reducing the guilt
that people feel, giving them the
chance to contribute. things that you
can’t buy — then-it’s essential. Now
if you’re talking about the minimum
society, where you just get a minimum
of services, and minimum involvement
from citizens, then of course it’s not
essential. But in terms of good spirit,
morale, and the capacity of people for
getting to know the other side of life —
both sides — then I think volunteerism

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 impor-
tant part of society?

Dr. Costello: I certainly do. I’ve been
reading Herman Kahn’s book, The
Year 2,000, and he says that increas-
ingly we are not only developing pri-
mary occupations and secondary occu-
pations, 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.
Most 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 im-
portant, not only in terms of what the
city needs, but in terms of what the
individual needs.

People are getting less personal sat-
isfaction than they used to because
they’re becoming mechanized or auto-
mated; 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, be-
cause 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 cer-
tainly it’s hard to bring volunteers
from all over the country to Washing-
ton. 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 n really do
things. I would say that if we can get
other cities to do what we've been do-
ing, and if we can continue to build
relationships between different seg-
ments of society by having volunteers
from these various groups work to-
gether, then we’ve made a mighty con-
tribution. You can legislate integra-
tion. You can kind of force it by hous-
ing. But the real integration comes
when people choose to work together
on a problem and solve common goals.
And, this is something that can be
accomplished by volunteerism alone.

Barbara Bonat and Christine Rodriguez



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