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Nonprofits launch effort on 9/11 to boost volunteerism

The campaign hopes to increase the ranks of American volunteers from 61 million to 100 million by 2020.

A TEAM EFFORT: Volunteers of the nonprofit, Rebuilding Together, fix up a school in Providence, R.I.

Alfredo Sosa/The Christian Science Monitor/FILE

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Service. It's one concept that everyone in the United States can rally around, even amid partisan election battles. It's a way for people to mark the 9/11 anniversary, triumphing over tragedy one good deed at a time.

But how can that desire to serve be channeled more effectively into meeting America's challenges? Organizers of the ServiceNation campaign, and a related summit in New York Sept. 11-12, hope to answer that and inspire millions more Americans to step up their volunteerism.

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama plan to appear at a presidential candidates' forum on service and civic engagement at Columbia University Sept. 11. The public can submit questions for the candidates at tinyurl.com/6jmhd5. Several news channels intend to broadcast the 8 p.m. forum.

About 61 million Americans volunteer each year. ServiceNation – backed by a coalition of more than 110 groups – aims to bump that number up to 100 million by 2020.

It's "a grass-roots movement unlike any before," says John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises, a public policy group in Washington that is organizing ServiceNation along with City Year, Be the Change Inc., and the Points of Light Institute.

Americans of all ages "clearly have this appetite to serve … and we want to create more choices – whether it's traditional volunteering or full-time service or military service – more opportunities to step forward and do something big for their country."

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