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Volunteers being screened for pope's visit

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Date: August 18, 2015

The appointed and official screener of volunteers for the World Meeting of Families congress and visit by Pope Francis, Sterling Volunteers, is more than halfway to the stated goal of screening volunteers, whose number has been capped at 10,000 individuals by the organizers.

The event runs from Tuesday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 27. Pope Francis will be here Sept. 26 to 27, and will conduct Mass at 4 p.m. that Sunday on the Parkway.

“We are the background screening provider for the World Meeting of Families, and we have been very active over the past few months,” said Sterling Volunteers founder and executive director Tom Klein. “We are now three to four months into the process, and we’ve screened well north of 8,000 volunteers.”

Klein said there was unbridled enthusiasm when he visited Philadelphia to launch the effort, and that volunteers represented every stripe.

“The enthusiasm has not dissipated; we are constantly screening between 75 and 100 people a day,” he said. “And the volunteers come from every walk of life, every state and every age group from college age to their 70s. The interest in volunteering was very broad-based geographically and age wise.”

Klein noted an “incredible burst” of support for the pope’s visit, and in the first 10 days of accepting volunteers, Sterling Volunteers processed 2,000, and that over time, World Meeting organizers also reached out to area universities and business — partially for the corporate social responsibility parts of the volunteering effort.

There is still time for potential volunteers to sign up. On the World Meeting website’s volunteer section,, details are provided on the six broad areas where volunteers are still needed: volunteer captain, guest services associate, special services coordinator, language services associate, operational and logistical assistant, and digital diplomat.

Regardless of which department a volunteer is assigned to, they still will have to go through Sterling Volunteers first.

“Volunteers will go to the World Meeting website, log in and create an account, and then input their information and register for various volunteer opportunities and classifications,” Klein said. “They are then brought in for background screening, and then [potential volunteers] will submit further information.”

Klein said the cost of the background check is $35, and noted that a great majority of volunteers have offered to pay for the background checks partially or in full.

By paying, he said, volunteers are showing their heightened interest, and form a budgeting perspective, it allows the congress to afford to screen even more individuals.

“The World Meeting of Families set a public goal of 10,000 volunteers, and we are open to screening as many people that come through as possible,” Klein said. “I think we are well on our way to the goal, and there’s still another two months left.”

It takes about 16 hours for Sterling Volunteers to screen a single volunteer, and that is do to a vigorous screening process that goes to great lengths to weed out those unsuitable to volunteer for such a high-profile event.

Klein said his team is running a “very comprehensive background check” that delves deep into the life of a volunteer. It will encompass everywhere the volunteer ever lived in his or her life, where they worked and where they traveled.

“It includes a very robust search of county and state records; it’s not a simple background check,” he said. “We will do state repository checks to get the most accurate and up to date information on a volunteer.

“The search goes across aliases, nicknames and maiden names,” Klein said. “The FBI and Secret Service will be involved with other layers of security at the event itself. But we are the first lien of defense — and a very important line of defense — to allow the event to go off seamlessly why keeping the [troublemakers] out.”

The National Guard and 1,000 state police officers will be on hand during the trip to keep order. The pope’s personal security detail will be headed by the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot-News reported.

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