Honoring Service and Legacy: Inaugural Harris Wofford Joint Service Awards Celebrate AmeriCorps and Peace Corps Volunteers

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More than 200 volunteers awarded for their service at home and abroad

Harris Wofford Joint Service Awards

Left to right: Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn, Chris Wofford, Karen Meyer Perez, AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith. Karen Meyer Perez was awarded the first ever Harris Wofford Joint Service Award during the ceremony in Texas.
Left to right: Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn, Chris Wofford, Karen Meyer Perez, AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith. Karen Meyer Perez was awarded the first ever Harris Wofford Joint Service Award during the ceremony in Texas.

WASHINGTON, DC, June 13, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — AmeriCorps and Peace Corps awarded the first Harris Wofford Joint Service Award to more than 200 individuals in Houston, Texas at the annual Points of Light Conference. Honoring the legacy of the late Senator Harris Wofford, who helped establish both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, the award recognizes individuals who have already chosen to serve their country at home and abroad through both programs, as well as the thousands more who make that same commitment in the future.

WATCH: Harris Wofford Award Ceremony

“As we commemorate the inaugural Harris Wofford Joint Service Awards, I am proud and grateful for the more than 200 changemakers who have served their country at home and abroad through AmeriCorps and Peace Corps” said Michael D. Smith, AmeriCorps CEO. “These awards serve as a call to action in remembrance of Harris Wofford’s remarkable life and legacy, to find ways big and small to give back to our communities.”    

“Turning passion into action, public service changes lives and bridges difference. Senator Wofford’s life and legacy are a testament to that transformative power,” said Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn. “And so are the more than 240,000 Peace Corps Volunteers since 1961, who have worked shoulder to shoulder with others to make a real impact around the world and at home, through human connection, one friendship, one colleague, one relationship at a time. With this award, we honor their commitment as we seek to inspire others to follow their incredible example.” 
 
The award named in his honor recognizes individuals who have followed in Harris Wofford’s footsteps by dedicating themselves to both domestic and international service, embodying Wofford’s lifetime objective to bridge divides through volunteerism. 

“Our family is grateful to the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps for establishing the Harris Wofford Joint Service Award in recognition of his lifelong dedication to developing an enduring system of national service in America,” said Daniel Wofford, Wofford’s son. “He loved to say that we need to ‘crack the atom’ of civic service and unleash its transformative power to bring people together from all backgrounds to improve lives and communities both at home and abroad. He believed passionately that working together to accomplish great goals builds an understanding of our shared values and helps bridge the divisions plaguing our nation. That’s why we are so proud that two great dynamic institutions our father loved so much have chosen to honor his legacy by championing a new generation of leaders, shaped by the challenge and experience of serving others. It would have been so meaningful to him, as it is for us, to celebrate young people who represent America at its best and will carry the torch for national service into a new era of service and citizenship.”

During the event in Texas, Wofford’s nephew, Chris Wofford ceremoniously gave out the first award on behalf of his late uncle.

“Harris held a fundamental belief that service was a great unifier. It was a defining force in his life. He knew that service builds shared goals, shared efforts, shared toil — for the betterment of our neighborhoods, our country, the larger world,” said Chris Wofford, Harris’ nephew, speaking in Houston on behalf of his family. “In this divisive era, service can be a uniting force, a force for healing and a force for progress. Service can raise us above individual concerns and focus our energies on broader visions — visions that can inspire our fellow Americans to collaborate, overcome and achieve. We are so proud that Harris’ call to action is carried on by this award and by these great, young leaders.”

A key player in the formation of both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, Wofford served as the special representative to Africa, director of operations in Ethiopia, and later, as a Peace Corps associate director. As a senator from Pennsylvania, Wofford helped pass the 1993 National and Community Service Trust Act which created AmeriCorps, where he later served as agency CEO for five years. Working with the late Rep. John Lewis, he also helped pass legislation to make the Martin Luther King federal holiday a national day of service.

After seven decades of public service – in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and as a civil rights advocate, US senator, college president – Harris Wofford was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2013.

More information about the Harris Wofford Joint Service Award can be found here.

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AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, provides opportunities for Americans to serve their country domestically, address the nation’s most pressing challenges, improve lives and communities, and strengthen civic engagement. Each year, the agency places more than 200,000 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers in intensive service roles; and empowers millions more to serve as long-term, short-term, or one-time volunteers. Learn more at AmeriCorps.gov.

AmeriCorps offers opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds to be a part of the national service community, grow personally and professionally, and receive benefits for their service. Learn how to get involved at AmeriCorps.gov/Serve.

The Peace Corps is an international service network of volunteers, community members, host country partners and staff who are driven by the agency’s mission of world peace and friendship. At the invitation of governments around the world, Peace Corps volunteers work alongside community members on locally prioritized projects in the areas of education, health, environment, agriculture, community economic development, and youth development. Through service, members of the Peace Corps network develop transferable skills and hone intercultural competencies that position them to be the next generation of global leaders. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 144 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

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