The Invitation to the White House!

President George W. Bush will recognize Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and the county’s emergency management coordinator, Mark Sloan, during a 1:10 p.m. (Eastern time) ceremony to present Presidential Volunteer Service Awards on the White House’s South Lawn this afternoon.

The president will honor Harris County’s commitment to supporting and expanding the Harris County Citizen Corps during a speech on volunteerism. The Citizen Corps is a community preparedness program that has provided hands-on disaster training to more than 17,000 residents across Harris County. The organization, a model for community preparedness, received the presidential “Call to Service Award” last year in recognition of its crucial role in coordinating over 60,000 volunteers during the region’s response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

“Although I’m extremely honored to receive this recognition, I’m really only there because the South Lawn couldn’t hold all the Harris County residents who have volunteered their time,” said Emmett. “More than 17,000 of our neighbors have donated many hours of their time to see to it that our county is the best prepared in the nation for dealing with disasters, be they man-made or natural.”

As county judge, Emmett serves as the director of the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Sloan, now the emergency management coordinator, supervised the Citizen Corp program in his previous role as community emergency response director and was instrumental in making the program one of the largest and most successful in the nation.

“Mark’s energy and persistence led to the phenomenal growth of the Citizen Corps, to the point where our county volunteer program is now larger than that of most states,” Emmett said. “I am grateful to Mark, his staff, and all our volunteers, and I wish they could be with us at the White House to be honored by the president.”