The third year of Salt Lake County's partnership with the national service group AmeriCorps kicked off this past week with Mayor Peter Corroon's announcement of a vigorous recruitment campaign for this year's program.

Corroon honored a group of volunteers who joined him by the podium, all of whom were nearing the completion of their second year of service.

"This group ... has been sacrificing and giving back to their communities," Corroon said. "They've aided homeless people in getting Social Security benefits ... helped agencies receive grants and get young people off the streets."

Corroon said issues surrounding homelessness will continue to be the focus of the 10 volunteers the county is seeking to begin work Oct. 1.

Volunteers, who are obligated to 1,700 hours of service, receive a living allowance as pay, health and dental benefits, student loan forbearance and assistance with child care. At the completion of their year of service, members are eligible for an education award of $4,725.

Salt Lake County's AmeriCorps program manager, Richard Parks, said the money can be used toward tuition at any Title IV school, which includes most technical schools, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. Parks said about 50 people have participated in the program to date.

One of those participants is Nova Tall, who will finish her second year of AmeriCorps service next May. Tall has a long record of service and community outreach, having hosted fundraising events on her own since 2002.

Tall was responsible for conceiving, organizing and launching a downtown summer benefit concert in 2007 at the Gallivan Center, which she reprised this year. Thirteen bands, local artists and local restaurants pitched in to raise money for children who have "aged out" of foster care and for Salt Lake County's chronically homeless.

Tall said people don't need to be involved in AmeriCorps to make a difference in the community.

"If you're someone driving to work everyday and you see that same homeless guy in the same place on the street ... you can educate him," Tall said. "You can let him know that, hey, there are people around who can help you get a place to live ... to help you better yourself."

Tall said referral cards are available from Volunteers of America, a group with which AmeriCorps works, that can connect a person on the street with services and counseling.

Prospective volunteers can find out more about AmeriCorps by calling Parks at 801-468-3604.