CHICAGO – April 2, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today joined leaders from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) to commemorate the birth of America’s greatest Hispanic civil rights leader by honoring the volunteers of the Uniting America service initiative. Volunteers performed thousands of hours of community service since the program's launch last summer. Today Governor Quinn called for all residents to honor the legacy of Cesar Chavez by recommitting themselves to community service.
“Service to others is the rent we pay for our place on Earth,” Governor Quinn said. “We are all called to serve. Cesar Chavez spent his life working to improve the lives of others and our Uniting America volunteers live his legacy every day by going out into their communities to make a difference."
Uniting America is a volunteer program made possible through a strong partnership between the Governor’s Office of New Americans (GONA) and ICIRR. It places Americorps volunteers within communities throughout the state to work on a wide variety of service projects that include park and school clean-ups, fundraising drives and citizenship workshops in immigrant communities.
"Having served in the Peace Corps after college, I understand how vital volunteerism is to bridging and creating healthy communities," said Lawrence Benito, executive director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "Through our Uniting America program, our fellows are immersed in communities working to build bridges and create healthy dialogues between immigrant and native born communities."
Uniting America has embarked on an ambitious 2012 agenda, with more than 100 community service and unity events planned. It hopes to recruit and train more than 8,000 additional volunteers to work on programs and activities that unite immigrants like citizenship workshops, immigrant civic engagement and community building. ICIRR has hosted nearly 1,200 volunteer-driven citizenship workshops in the past seven years, with volunteers performing more than 100,000 hours of outreach, legal assistance and tutoring.
In 2010, Governor Quinn signed an executive order reestablishing the Governor’s Office of New Americans (GONA). The office builds upon the strength of immigrants, their families and their institutions and assists them in their journey towards self-sufficiency. About 20 percent of Illinois’ population are immigrants or the children of immigrants. For more information about the Governor’s Office of New Americans and the Uniting America initiative, visit newamericans.illinois.gov and www.ICIRR.org or contact GONA Director Denise Martinez at 312-814-6686.