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Jun 16, 9:53 PM ED
Michelle Obama: Government alone can't rebuild

WASHINGTON (AP) -- First lady Michelle Obama said Tuesday that struggling communities shouldn't look to government alone for help.

Obama told a luncheon of Washington-area service and philanthropy groups that their members' work is key to making a difference in neighborhoods and schools. She said leaders should take advantage of a recently signed public service law to engage new volunteers and put them to work.

"Washington can only do so much," Obama said.

"Communities are built and rebuilt by regular people. Folks working in businesses, philanthropists, foundations and volunteers - all of them coming together to find solutions to these types of challenges."

She said the national service law would funnel thousands of volunteers to such nonprofit groups. She warned groups to be ready for new volunteers and then use them to help others in real ways.

"People really want to get involved," Obama said. "They're looking for a way to turn their frustration, excitement, anxiety into action. And (with) the recent passage of the Serve America Act, the federal government is tripling its contribution to volunteerism and people are responding to that investment."

But she also said the key to keeping them interested is for them to see results.

The first lady highlighted her firsthand experience as a community organizer and her background running an AmeriCorps program. She joked about the headaches of the progress reports, fundraising pitches and financial ledgers.

"It's necessary, but at times it can drive you nuts," Obama said.

Obama also called on philanthropic groups to offer support, especially in multiyear commitments. She says that when she ran community service plans in Chicago, the multiyear grants helped her write more realistic budgets and invest in technology and fundraising.

"This just doesn't happen out of goodwill. It takes real resources to move things forward," she said.

The first lady offered encouragement to service organizations whose budgets have faced trouble as the economic meltdown slowed charitable giving and local grants.

"As tired as you may be, we're going to need you. ... We're going to be tapping you more and more," she said

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