03/05/2011 12:11 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Save Service: The Future of AmeriCorps

In the new film bearing his name, we watch as the protagonist, Rango, journeys from being an aspiring, swashbuckling hero dreaming big in a terrarium to living the real thing in a Wild West town called Dirt, where he has to stand up for a whole community of desert creatures. Rango, just an ordinary creature with a big heart and a big dream, finds it within himself to serve and to lead, and gives life to the old Margaret Mead saying,"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Rango, at its heart, is the story of a servant-leader and community organizer who uses his skills, passion and idealism to speak truth to power and drive positive and important change against great odds.

We are in desperate need of more Rangos.

On February 19, in the early morning hours, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would completely eliminate AmeriCorps and all of our country's national service programs within the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This is serious, and potentially devastating, news for the thousands of nonprofits and community and faith-based organizations that rely on this funding to deliver critical services to an expanding population of needy Americans.

Many high-impact programs, including Citizens Schools, City Year, Habitat for Humanity, Jumpstart, YouthBuild, and Teach for America, as well as literally hundreds of other local programs and initiatives working in churches, senior homes, schools and government agencies face drastic cuts or possible closure.

ServiceNation, in partnership with the America Forward and Voices for National Service coalitions, is organizing an effort to "save service." We are proud to announce a partnership this week whereby ServiceNation will receive $1 from every iTunes download of the Rango soundtrack purchased between March 1 and March 8.

The economic crisis in the United States continues to test our ability to help the most vulnerable among us. Unemployment numbers -- particularly for young people, veterans, older Americans and people of color -- are still high. The number of Americans who need food, shelter, health care, job training and educational support continues to expand. For nearly two decades, our national service programs have tapped the energy, talent and entrepreneurial spirit of citizens of all ages to solve problems in their communities.

Here is just a small sample of what would happen if national service funding is eliminated:
  • More than 3 million at-risk children will not get instructional support from citizens serving through programs such as Teach for America, City Year and Citizen Schools;
  • More than 10,000 pre-school students served by Jumpstart tutors will not start school ready to read;
  • More than 620,000 seniors and the disabled served by Senior Companions and RSVP will lose in-home support, forcing them to turn to expensive institutional care;
  • More than 745,000 medically underserved children and adults will not receive health outreach, education and immunizations from Community HealthCorps members;
  • More than 4,500 families will be forced to live in substandard housing, rather than Habitat for Humanity homes; and
  • More than 1.5 million young people will no longer be engaged in service learning opportunities designed to improve academic quality and prepare them for lifetime of responsible citizenship.

America's needs are great during these difficult economic times, and national service is on the front line working to meet these needs. With budget shortfalls at the local, state and federal level, national service is a cost effective way to provide crucially important services in low-income communities and schools across the country. Now is not the time to cut these services, but to expand them.

We are asking you to step up, find your inner Rango and "never doubt." Please visit iTunes and purchase the Rango soundtrack so that we can continue to make the case that we need service, now more than ever.