Arthur Randolph spent a year in the Army, and had "a couple of close calls" in Vietnam. But when he made it back, he decided he wasn't done serving.

The longtime newspaper pressman, whose career included a stint at the Baltimore News-American, spent years volunteering in schools and senior centers. He is now part of an Obama administration push to increase the number of veterans who work in their communities after serving their country in uniform.


The 2009 law that reauthorized the AmeriCorps service program included an initiative drafted by Rep. John Sarbanes of Baltimore County called Veterans Corps. The program, which President Barack Obama touted during his 2008 campaign, is aimed at recruiting veterans into volunteering, especially for programs that serve other veterans and military families.

The effort came seven years into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as the United States was creating a new generation of veterans that most estimates place at about 2.5 million people.

Nearly 24,000 veterans are enrolled in AmeriCorps or Senior Corps, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the independent federal agency that oversees the programs.

"We started at elementary schools," said Randolph, 73, of Dundalk, who was honorably discharged from the Army in 1966 as a private. "After the first year they ran out of money and everyone left, but I just stayed on. I love volunteering."

Randolph said he spends much of his time at the Fleming Senior Center in Dundalk, playing karaoke for members or doing "whatever they need done."

The 2009 Serve America Act directed the Corporation for National and Community Service to place a larger emphasis on veterans, and there is some evidence that that is happening. The corporation told Congress last month that the number of volunteers in the AmeriCorps program that are dedicated solely to helping veterans and military families had increased nearly tenfold between 2010 and 2013, to about 2,510.

But progress in other areas has been notably slow. In its congressionally mandated report, the corporation said about 23,590 veterans were volunteering in AmeriCorps or Senior Corps programs in 2010. That's an almost identical number to the one officials tout now, suggesting there has been little growth in the number of veterans recruited to volunteer over the past five years.

That's not a surprise, given the broader financial and political context under which the Corporation for National and Community Service has operated. A Democratic-controlled Congress passed the 2009 reauthorization, which called for increasing the number of volunteers of all kinds to 250,000. But the agency has operated since then under a Republican Congress that has prioritized federal spending reductions, and it has received funding for only about 75,000 positions.

At the same time, the number of Americans volunteering has been slipping for years. Just over 25 percent of the U.S. population over age 16 — about 62.8 million people — reported volunteering at least once last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2003, 63.8 million gave some portion of their time, about 28.8 percent.

The 2009 law allowed grant applicants to develop programs targeted at veterans, but it did not set aside money for the effort. For now, supporters acknowledge, the Veteran Corps effort is aimed mostly at recognizing veterans who are already serving in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. Some hope the program will eventually lead to a direct engagement of more veterans in public service.

Dozens of veterans who volunteer in Maryland, including Randolph, were recognized Wednesday at a ceremony at the Timonium Fairgrounds. Organizers said it was the first of several events to be held across the nation leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

"It just shows that service, and that sense of patriotism, is baked into the DNA of so many people across this country," Sarbanes said. "We wanted to recognize those people. We're doing it formally; we're doing it informally; we're doing it in a quiet, steady way."

Vincent DelGavio served in the Army Reserve and the National Guard from 1956 to 1969, first as a motor sergeant and then as a radar operator. When he retired in 2004, he became a Senior Corps volunteer, offering fitness and health help to seniors at the Parkville Senior Center in Baltimore County.

"They asked me to volunteer in the fitness center two days a week to take blood pressure," said DelGavio, 76. "Well, two days went to three days, went to four and then five."


DelGavio estimates he volunteers more than 1,000 hours a year, helping seniors with fitness equipment. On Wednesday, he was spending his time at a booth at the Baltimore County Baby Boomer and Senior Expo, testing the strength of seniors' grip as well as their balance.

"I feel honored that they recognized me," DelGavio said, "but there's other people who have probably done far more than I did."