Mayor's Office

Press Release


City receives $200K grant to promote Volunteerism
Chief Service officer will be hired to promote volunteering for at-Risk youth, Veterans Service


June 30, 2010 -- The City of Houston has been chosen as one of ten cities to receive a two-year, $200,000 Cities of Service Grant funded jointly by the Rockefeller Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. The grant will allow the city to hire a Chief Service Officer – a senior city official who will develop and implement a citywide plan to increase volunteerism and target volunteers to address their city’s greatest needs.


“This grant will help both Houstonians with big hearts and organizations in great need of volunteers, especially those that focus on at-risk youth and veterans,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “I thank both Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Rockefeller Foundation for selecting the City of Houston as a grant recipient, and look forward to seeing the results this funding will produce.”


The grant pays the salary and benefits of a full-time employee. The Chief Service Officer will work in tandem with the Mayor’s Volunteer Initiatives Program (VIP) and report directly to Mayor Parker to develop and implement a plan to increase civic engagement, particularly in the areas of at-risk youth and veterans’ services. His/her responsibilities will include: conducting an assessment of existing service levels within the city to establish a benchmark, launching a website to publicize volunteer opportunities and organizations in need of volunteers, building long-term community partners and engaging with local colleges and universities. The new full-time employee will be hired and begin work by September 10, 2010.


“The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to continue our long tradition of supporting innovative solutions for urban communities through the Cities of Service Leadership Grants,” said Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin. “As a former University president, I saw firsthand how integral service can be in creating opportunities for communities to be involved in solving problems and finding innovative ideas on a local level.  During this difficult economic time, the strongest leaders are guided by the deep understanding that community involvement can change neighborhoods, cities and a state, and the Rockefeller Foundation is thrilled to be a partner in fostering and supporting these efforts."


Applications to the Cities of Service Leadership Grants program were limited to members of the Cities of Service coalition, to cities that have more than 100,000 residents, according to the 2008 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau, and to cities that have at least one community college or four-year public or private university.

The first round of Cities of Service Leadership Grant winners were announced in January 2010. The selected cities, which have all appointed Chief Service Officers, were Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; Nashville, TN; Newark, NJ; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; Sacramento, CA; Savannah, GA; and Seattle, WA. These ten cities are already working towards launching comprehensive service plans this fall to address problems of critical in need in their communities. To identify those problems, Chief Service Officers in the ten cities surveyed more than 3,300 individuals and included more than 200 stakeholders and leaders in the non-profit community on advisory councils. The cities have engaged 72 colleges and universities as a part of their service plan and are working with over 300 non-profit organizations.


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed the nation’s first Chief Service Officer, Diahann Billings-Burford, in June 2009.



About Cities of Service


Founded in New York on September 10, 2009 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the mayors of 16 other cities, Cities of Service is a bipartisan coalition of mayors who have answered the historic Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act’s call to action. Representing more than 46 million Americans in 100 cities, all coalition members have signed a “Declaration of Service,” committing to work together to lead a multi-year effort to expand community service and volunteerism by:


  • Developing a comprehensive service plan and a coordinated strategy focused on matching volunteers and established community partners to the areas of greatest local need;
  • Working with other mayors and elected officials to advance strategies and best practices that accelerate the service movement and produce measurable results;
  • Encouraging other mayors to join this national effort to engage our citizens; and
  • Ensuring that the voice of cities is heard in federal legislative, policy, and program discussions related to service, which will help the country achieve the ambitious goals of the Serve America Act.


The Cities of Service coalition includes the following cities: Akron, OH; Albany, NY; Allentown, PA; Annapolis, MD; Arlington, TX; Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Baltimore, MD; Baton Rouge, LA; Birmingham, AL; Boston, MA; Bowling Green, KY; Brownsville, TX; Buffalo, NY; Catoosa, OK; Chandler, AZ; Charleston, SC; Chattanooga, TN; Chicago, IL; Chula Vista, CA; Cincinnati, OH; Corpus Christi, TX; Davis, CA; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; Dublin OH; El Paso, TX; Eugene, OR; Flint, MI; Fort Wayne, IN; Fresno, CA; Grand Prairie, TX; Grand Rapids, MI; Harrisburg, PA; Hattiesburg, MS; Honolulu, HI; Houston, TX; Irvine, CA; Jackson, MS; Jacksonville, FL; Kalamazoo, MI; Kansas City, MO; Lancaster, CA; Lexington, KY; Los Angeles, CA; Meridian, MS; Mesa, AZ; Miami, FL; Milwaukee, WI; Muskegon, MI; Nashville and Davidson County, TN; New Bedford, MA; New York, NY; Newark, NJ; Oakland, CA; Omaha, NE; Orlando, FL; Palm Bay, FL; Panama City, FL; Pawtucket, RI; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; Placerville, CA; Portland, OR; Providence, RI; Reading, PA; Riverside, CA; Roseville, CA; Sacramento, CA; Salinas, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Antonio, TX; San Francisco, CA; San Jose, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Santa Rosa, CA; Savannah, GA; Seattle, WA; Somerville, MA; Springfield, MA; St Louis, MO; St Paul, MN; St Petersburg, FL; Stockton, CA; Syracuse, NY; Toledo, OH; Topeka, KS; Trenton, NJ; Tucson, AZ; Utica, NY; Vancouver, WA; Ventura, CA; Vicksburg, MS; Virginia Beach, VA; Washington, DC; West Palm Beach, FL; Little Rock, AR; Richmond, VA.