January 23, 2020

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When Frenemies Agree: Service Unites Us All

At a time when governments, organizations and people are still facing fiscal constraints, we need to think creatively – and collectively – about how we can drive real change and improve lives.


By Michael Carren, Director, Employee Engagement and Volunteerism, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

What can make Donna Brazile dance joyously with Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly agree with Jon Stewart?

Service to our communities and the idea that volunteerism can be a game-changer for building strong, vibrant neighborhoods. If we put aside our differences and come together, we can actually make a difference. 

This is the power that One America, a new campaign led by Points of Light and JPMorgan Chase & Co., aims to harness by expanding volunteerism to more Americans across all divides and allegiances.

We want to see Republicans and Democrats serve shoulder to shoulder at local food banks and soup kitchens, Red Sox and Yankee fans join together to hoist a new wall into place for a family to have their first home, and football fans and soccer players both rush to the scene of a disaster together to help victims in crisis.

Service unites people. Regardless of our backgrounds – ethnic, religious, ideological, political, professional – when we volunteer we instantly have something in common. We build a bond of civility, respect and understanding for others in a way that might have been unthinkable before.  And Donna Brazile dance joyously with Karl Rovewhen we serve, we can see the power of our collective responsibility for our country in action. 

If you think about it, America was built by volunteers. 

They fought for – and won – our freedom, tutored and mentored our children, and inspired millions of others to become pillars in their communities through service. Today, more than 65 million Americans volunteer their time at least once a year. We want to grow that number. Imagine if we had 75 million or 100 million people volunteering to improve communities across the country. Think about the impact 100 million people could make!

We kicked off One America at the Points of Light Conference in June and held the first event in Columbus, Ohio. More than 200 volunteers – Columbus community members and Chase employees – came together to make nearly 100 vegetable seed balls for the Franklin Park Conservatory, which will be planted in 250 community gardens. The seed balls will grow to help residents in these communities access fresh vegetables and eat healthier. 

Philip Pikelny from the Columbus Zoo and David Chesebrough from COSI Columbus led the service challenge and served as the tour's first pair of powerful voices calling for unity through service. The event also marked the opening day of registration for the second annual Columbus Volunteer Challenge.

Over the next 10 months, we'll bring together powerful voices in cities across America to serve together and mobilize volunteers. We're stopping in New York City next, so stay tuned!

How can you get involved?

  1. Visit the One America page on Facebook  and pledge your service. You'll also find ways to get more involved in your community.
  2. Tell us who you would like to see join together in service to America.
  3. Encourage your friends and family to volunteer in their communities.

In the coming months, we'll showcase the outcome of these volunteering events through posts on Talkback. We'll focus on measuring our impact, on telling the stories from the events, and how One Americaunlikely allies and powerful voices can indeed work together to fulfill a larger mission.

Particularly at a time when governments, organizations, and people are still facing fiscal constraints, we need to think creatively – and collectively – about how we can drive real change and improve lives. 

Great challenges are best overcome when people with different ideas, skills and passions come together and collaborate. We're hopeful that through this effort, more people will volunteer, and we'll demonstrate that we are stronger together than divided.

After all, when we put our differences aside, we all want the same thing for our communities.  And at the end of the day, we will stand strong – together – as One America.


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