The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is the recipient of the 2016 Tom Harkin Excellence Award for Best New Program Design from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. CNCS created the Tom Harkin Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards in honor of Senator Tom Harkin, a lifelong champion of national service, to recognize the outstanding and innovative AmeriCorps programs tackling our nation’s most pressing challenges.
In April 2014 the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation held a press conference to release a special report, Houston’s Literacy Crisis: A Blueprint for Community Action, aimed at increasing literacy rates in our city. During the press event, Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, announced that the federal agency was putting “boots on the ground” to build capacity for the implementation of the Blueprint. Her boots-on-the-ground plan entailed kick-starting our efforts by funding, in partnership with the OneStar Foundation, five AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) positions each year for three years.
Since that time, we have been fortunate to have 11 remarkable men and women serve with us as AmeriCorps VISTAs to help break the cycle of low literacy and poverty in Houston. As a new foundation formed in 2013, our VISTA members have been instrumental in building the capacity of internal operations, raising awareness of the literacy cause, supporting a growing coalition of literacy providers across our city, and mobilizing thousands of volunteers to serve those in need. “The AmeriCorps VISTA program truly exemplifies the power that volunteerism can have in changing lives, empowering families and lifting up communities. We are deeply grateful for the impactful service generously offered to us by our AmeriCorps VISTA Corps members,” stated Neil and Maria Bush, chairs of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.
We are grateful to the OneStar Foundation for nominating the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and to CNCS for bestowing this prestigious award upon us.