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United Way Blog

Celebrating the American Spirit of Service

The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The Capitol and Washington Monument. These iconic structures in Washington, D.C. are instantly recognizable emblems of our democracy and those who serve to protect it.

Volunteers, too, form the backbone of American society. But where is the monument to their work? Democracies can only thrive when citizens are engaged in the success of their community. Those who serve – whether they are paid or unpaid – do so to ensure that each voice is heard and the most vulnerable among us are cared for, whether it be in the face of a pandemic, a natural disaster or just a routine day.

People who serve bring the ideals of democracy to life, so we need a new institution alongside the monuments of presidents to celebrate service in all its forms. The National Museum and Center for Service will be dedicated to the millions of Americans and thousands of organizations who commit themselves to service. The museum will be a place for national pride in and recognition of the value of volunteering and all kinds of service and will honor and tell the stories of all those who serve.

It is long overdue, and United Way applauds former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird for leading the effort to establish the Museum and Center. For more than 130 years ago, United Way inspired, recruited, supported and recognized volunteers and a commitment to service. Our call to action is "Give. Advocate. Volunteer." Today, when you volunteer through United Way around the world, you’re joining 2.5 million people who are giving back so others can get ahead.

Service runs the gamut, from tutoring students, to teaching a workshop on budgeting and money management to adults, to delivering meals to seniors and sprucing up their yards and shoveling their snow, so they can live independently for as long as possible in their own homes. Peace Corps and AmeriCorps members provide service year-round. Disaster-relief teams serve for days on end. The common thread? Everyone who serves is an ordinary person doing something extraordinary to lift and strengthen communities.

The Museum and Center for Service will be a place to tell their stories – and yours – and will educate and inspire future generations to serve as well.

The journey to bring this museum and center to fruition has just begun, and you can help make it a reality. Here's how to get started:

  • Visit the website and watch this video about the vision for the museum.
  • Share this blog and other information with your network of people who are passionate about service.
  • Endorse the Museum. Ask the organizations you are part of and your employer to do the same. To do so, email hello@nmcfs.org.
  • Write to your members of Congress in support of the Museum. There’s a form and sample email on this page.
  • Shape the experience you will have once the Museum comes to fruition. Provide feedback here.

Who do you know that exemplifies the American spirit of service? Whose story should be told? Let us know at hello@nmcfs.org.