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“Homework Diner” is One of Four New Cities of Service Blueprints Outlining Steps for City Halls to Leverage Citizen Volunteers to Improve Local Life

December 17, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico– Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry today announced that the city’s strategy to engage families in after-school tutoring and improve academic performance and teacher-caregiver involvement by providing a healthy dinner along with homework assistance was the first runner-up in the Cities of Service Blueprint Contest. Albuquerque is a member of Cities of Service, a New York-based national nonprofit that supports mayors to engage citizen volunteers in solving specific urban challenges and to effectively implement service strategies that can be widely replicated.

As the first runner-up, Albuquerque will receive $12,000 in grant funding and its Homework Diner blueprint is now published in the Cities of Service online resource library. The grand prize winner, Nashville, Tenn., will receive $25,000, and runners-up Orlando, Fla., and Philadelphia each will receive $5,000 and their blueprints also are published. Further detail about the winning blueprints appears below and online. Cities of Service coalition members can receive technical assistance and support to bring these and other blueprints to life in their cities.

Homework Diner has proven so successful at helping families and engaging students that we are expanding the program to nine additional schools this year,” Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry said. “I’m grateful to Cities of Service for recognizing the value of the city’s collaboration with our community and volunteers, which can and will only grow with this support. We are thrilled to be recipients of a Cities of Service Blueprint Contest award.”

Through the Homework Diner initiative, Albuquerque provides hundreds of elementary school students with homework assistance and one-on-one time with educators, as well as provides family members with healthy meals cooked by volunteers from Central New Mexico Community College’s (CNM) culinary school. Homework Diner also has helped some parents to acquire their GED. In the first year of the program, teachers at the participating school reported increases in student homework completion and classroom performance, as well as increases in parental involvement among other positive outcomes shared by parents and caregivers.

“At Cities of Service, we know that the best ideas come from the field – where community and local government leaders are leveraging the power of citizen volunteers to make a difference in collaborative, innovative ways,” said Myung J. Lee, Cities of Service Executive Director. “Cities of Service blueprints capture the strongest programs and partnerships and allow more cities to apply those best practices, significantly increasing the potential for impact."

Other Winning Cities

In addition to Albuquerque, the cities of Nashville, Tenn., Orlando, Fla., and Philadelphia were recognized:

Nashville, Tennessee: Mayor Karl Dean’s strategy to improve waterways and expand green infrastructure through coordinated restoration and resiliency efforts – such as full-scale tree plantings and creation of rain gardens – with the help of community partners and volunteers is outlined in the Storm Busters blueprint. After torrential rains caused unprecedented river cresting and flooding in May 2010, the City of Nashville brought together multiple agencies, volunteer and local environmental organizations that helped prevent erosion, flooding and the spread of pollution by mitigating more than 2.5 million gallons of storm water. Participants also have planted more than 7,300 trees and created 60 rain gardens across the city. Thousands of volunteers have assessed more than 200 miles of waterways and cleaned 30 miles of waterways, removing 294 tons of trash and debris to date. Nashville citizen volunteers continue to green the city to create a more resilient infrastructure.

Orlando, Fla.: Mayor Buddy Dyer’s office created Path Finders, a six-week afterschool program through which hundreds of middle school students are coached by community volunteers from local businesses and receive academic planning and career mentoring, as well as self-exploration and Junior Achievement curriculum. Outcomes in Orlando included no reported incidences of juvenile crime among participating students, improved grades and better school attendance. Eighty-eight percent of students reported increased desire to graduate from high school.

Philadelphia: Through Mayor Michael Nutter’s Waste Watchers sustainability initiative, the city recruited and trained more than 1,000 volunteers to help attendees and spectators at major public events separate waste into trash, recycling, and compost receptacles. Waste Watchers achieved an 87.5% waste diversion rate at the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon, which subsequently received a Gold Certification from the Council for Responsible Sport in the following years. Because of its success, Waste Watchers is now a part of four additional major events in the city.

Among other resources provided by Cities of Service, blueprints offer necessary steps for cities to effectively partner with nonprofit and community-based organizations, leveraging citizen volunteers to measurably improve local life. Cities of Service blueprints can be adopted and adapted by cities to address their challenges, and each prioritizes volunteers and producing measurable impact – versus just numbers of participants.

About Cities of Service

Cities of Service is a national nonprofit that supports mayors to design and implement high-impact service strategies that can be replicated in cities worldwide. It provides technical assistance, programmatic support, planning resources, and funding opportunities. Founded by Michael R. Bloomberg in 2009, Cities of Service currently supports a coalition of 200 cities in the U.S. and UK whose mayors are committed to engaging citizen volunteers to solve local pressing challenges, from increasing high school graduation rates to improving energy efficiency in buildings. Cities of Service helps coalition cities share solutions, best practices, and lessons learned, as well as spreads awareness about the great work happening in cities. Join us at, and follow @citiesofservice on Twitter.