Maria Shriver is launching a new U.S. volunteer initiative called the Shriver Corps, named in part to honor the legacy of her late father, Sargent Shriver, who founded the Peace Corps.
The Shriver Corps will train volunteers to help poor Americans connect with programs they're entitled to but that they may not be aware of — everything from tax credits and food stamps to employment, health and child care assistance.
"Many programs exist that are intended for people who have no idea that they exist," Maria Shriver said in a phone interview preceding the official launch Thursday of the Shriver Corps. "This is a chance for young people to be of service and help others who can't navigate the system by giving them a helping hand. ... A lot of people in this country are struggling."
Sargent Shriver founded the Peace Corps while working in the administration of President John F. Kennedy and also established domestic anti-poverty programs like Head Start and the VISTA volunteer program.
Maria Shriver said she hopes the Shriver Corps inspires young Americans "to learn about Daddy and what his beliefs were and his vision."
She said she was also inspired to create the corps by work she did on women's issues and with families in need when she was first lady of California. Her ex-husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, served as governor from 2003-2011.
Maria Shriver said the Shriver Corps will partner with an existing nonprofit organization called LIFT, which helps the poor in six cities find jobs, housing and employment. The first group of 20 Shriver Corps fellows are AmeriCorps volunteers who will work full-time for a year in a community served by LIFT.
As AmeriCorps workers, Shriver Corps fellows will receive cost-of-living allowances. The program, which is supported by Bank of America, was announced Thursday in Arlington, Virginia, at a Bank of America Student Leaders Summit event.
"Service can be a powerful agent of change to combat poverty," said Anne Finucane, Bank of America's head of strategy. "Partnerships like this are advancing the service movement."