Some of America's largest volunteer-promoting organizations met in New York City on Friday to collaborate on how they can together respond to the economic crisis facing the nation today.
"We each have different strengths, different areas of expertise, and our roles should be complimentary, not competitive," Carl A. Anderson, the chief executive officer of the Knights of Columbus, told over 175 representatives from around 110 groups.
"Our communities need the service each of us provides, and we need other to effectively help our neighbors in this crisis," he added in the closing remarks of the one-day summit sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life.
The daylong summit was held as faith-based and community service providers have been reporting drops in donations and cutbacks on government funding despite dramatic increases in demand. And with America facing the worst economic conditions in a generation, 27 percent of Americans say they intend to reduce giving to charities in 2009.
"This crisis is unprecedented in our lifetimes," said Anderson ahead of the Feb. 27 summit, "and our response must be as well."
Friday's summit drew organizations including Habitat for Humanity, the United Way, The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, General Electric, and Volunteers of America, among others.
It featured three panel discussions with speakers from top national and regional volunteer organizations and programs, as well as round-table discussions on the issue of tapping volunteerism to aid in America's economic recovery.
"It's wonderful to see how much good all of our organizations are doing – and how much more good we are planning to do," Anderson said Friday.
"This meeting truly represents the best of what America stands for," he added.
In his closing remarks, Anderson challenged representatives of all sectors – governmental, non-profit, religious, educational, media and corporate – to do even more for their neighbors, and to do so "in the best way possible."
"We must now go forward with the understanding that dialogue, like we have seen today, is critical to providing the most effective support for our communities," he said.
Within the next few weeks, summit participants will be receiving a detailed report on the summit along with requests for suggestions from each of them about how better lines of communication can be built.
They will also be providing input on the creations of a new website, servicetogether.org, which will serve as a hub for communication among the groups, and a place where the public can learn more about volunteerism and what each of the organizations does.
"I believe that this wide range of groups and individuals is further proof in the deep concern we have as a nation for our neighbor, and shows the very best of cooperation," Anderson said Friday.
The summit, held at the Marriott East Side in New York City, ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and had as its theme "A Nation of Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Volunteerism as a response to the economic crisis."
Anderson had invited the nation's top charitable and volunteer organizations to attend the summit during a Jan. 23 speech at Fairfield University.