California needs ‘an army of volunteers’ for its coronavirus response, Newsom says


Urging Californians to answer the immediate needs of the coronavirus pandemic and create a lasting commitment to community volunteerism, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday unveiled a new statewide program designed to enlist more of the state’s residents to offer both in-person and remote help for those in need.

“We’ve launched this initiative in order to launch an army of volunteers to express themselves, day in and day out, as only Californians can,” Newsom said. “Not only to meet this moment, but to prepare to meet subsequent moments.”

The “Californians for All” effort focuses on a new web-based application for those willing to volunteer in a variety of ways. Josh Fryday, the state’s chief service officer, said the program is designed to provide a variety of options for those who want to get involved. Not all volunteerism has to be done in person, he said. Those concerned about their health and safety can offer to help from home.

“We want you to sign up and tell us, when you sign up: What interests you? What issues do you want to work on in your community? Where would you like to make a difference?” Fryday said.

In the weeks since the public health crisis began, state officials have highlighted the particular challenges for at-risk Californians. Some seniors, especially those with underlying health problems, have suffered as long-standing services such as meal deliveries have been curtailed. Others, confined to their homes for the first time, have few or no family members to check on their well-being.


“We need you. And we need each other,” Fryday said.

The effort, unveiled during the governor’s daily briefing on coronavirus efforts across the state, includes a variety of nonprofit organizations that will partner with state officials to organize the new volunteers and coordinate their activities. California has had a government-led effort on volunteerism since 1994, now known as California Volunteers, that oversees the state’s administration of the AmeriCorps program. The new effort uses the existing state operation led by Fryday and will be overseen by a bipartisan commission led by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

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April 23, 2020

The governor said on Tuesday that his initiative seeks to not only enlist new volunteers, but to have their efforts more closely tailored to the needs of their own communities.

“It’s a bottom-up framework, not top-down,” Newsom said. “So we want to meet you where you are and help you meet others so, ultimately, we can create the kind of dynamic — a sense of commonality — that ultimately will get us through this moment.”