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Bush Urges Volunteerism Through Proposed USA Freedom Corps

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WINSTON-SALEM, NC — President Bush appealed Wednesday forAmericans to do their part against terrorism by volunteering intheir communities.

"If people want to fight terror, do something kind for aneighbor," he said.

The president kicked off a two-day swing through three Southernstates by promoting his $560 million proposal for a USA FreedomCorps, which would serve as an outlet for Americans who want tocontribute to the anti-terror effort but don't really know how toget started. He announced the idea in his State of the Unionspeech.

Bush urged a crowd of roughly 6,000 people at an arena here toget involved in their communities, especially if they possessskills that can be valuable in a crisis. He suggested that theycall a toll-free number - 1-877-USA-CORPS - for more information.

"Make yourself available to be a part of your emergencyresponse teams," he said. "Stand up to evil with acts of goodnessand kindness. We will show the world that universal values must berespected. History has called us to action, and action we willtake."

Bush greeted local dignitaries who met Air Force One here, thenwaited at the door of his limo while Sen. Jesse Helms, who flewhere with Bush, made his way down the steps to shake a few handshimself.

They then went to the Center for Community Safety to meet with"first responders" - police, firefighters, emergency medicalteams - who are on the front lines when disaster strikes. Hepraised their efforts to come up with their own local defensestrategy.

"Your community will be strong before and afterwards," hesaid. "There will be a better health care system afterwards, saferneighborhoods afterwards."

Later Wednesday, Bush was traveling on to Florida for his sixthvisit since he took office, to participate in a town hall meetingin Daytona Beach. On Thursday he goes to Atlanta to promote theTeach for America program at Booker T. Washington high school,where Martin Luther King Jr. once studied.

Bush envisions three elements to the USA Freedom Corps. One is a"citizen corps" that would mobilize people to perform duties intheir communities based on their skills, such as medical care, oraugment police services through neighborhood watch efforts. TheJustice Department would work with existing neighborhood watchprograms to double their number over the next two years andincorporate terrorism prevention into their procedures.

Bush also calls for expanding the current AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps programs to bring in 125,000 new volunteers, and bringingPeace Corps participation back to levels near its all-time high of15,000 in June 1966. The goal, the White House said, is for thosenew volunteers to attract another 75,000 volunteers.

The president is seeking $560 million for these efforts in hisfiscal 2003 budget. He wants Americans to pledge to spend 4,000hours over their lifetimes to doing good deeds for others.

The Freedom Corps would be guided by a council and a White Housedirector who would report directly to Bush with recommendations onimproving services and helping recruit volunteers. The presidentwould chair the council.