As this economic crisis deepens at the federal, state, and local level, the demand for critical services is going up while the resources to provide these services are going down. At the same time, nonprofit organizations, which are ground zero for providing services in our community, are struggling to meet the need.

But there is a silver lining: Americans are coming together and are signing up to volunteer and serve at unprecedented rates. Applications for AmeriCorps are already up 208 percent from last year. Teach For America is expecting 34,000 applicants for 5,000 slots. There is an interest among citizens to serve their communities and be part of the solution. This is a glimmer of hope during these dire economic times, and we should invest in it.

Right now, there is bipartisan legislation going through Congress that would invest in service. The Serve America Act is sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Mike Enzi, R-Wy. This bill expands on the success of AmeriCorps and creates 175,000 new service opportunities, including education, health, poverty, clean energy, and a Veterans Service Corps to provide additional support to returning vets and engage them in service.

We need this legislation now. The way out of this economic crisis is to invest in our citizens – their service, their innovation, and their will to make a difference. I encourage everyone to call Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and ask them to vote yes on the Serve America Act.

State Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx