Characters on more than 100 television shows this week will encourage viewers to turn off the television and participate in volunteer efforts in communities across the nation this week. The I Participate program, sponsored by the Entertainment Industry Foundation, has gained the support of network executives, producers and stars in this giant public service effort.
Viewers probably won’t be surprised by one aspect of the programming…the public service announcements. When shows go to commercial, the same stars they’ve been watching will show up in public service announcements sharing their volunteer experiences, how they have benefited from the efforts of others and directing viewers to Web sites where they can find volunteer activities. PSAs will also be featuring musicians and singers, athletes and other celebrities.
A complete list of participating shows is available here.
“As a centerpiece for this initiative, EIF has enlisted major broadcast networks including, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, for an unprecedented, week-long television event beginning Monday, October 19. Tune in to seven days and nights of television and watch how your favorite TV shows and personalities shine a light on the power of community service,” EIF board members state on their Web site. The board is also making available a limited number of capacity building grants following the week.
According to the I Participate Web site, the Entertainment Industry Foundation has five major organizational needs to spotlight: supporting military families, health and well being, education and children, the environment and conversation, community health and financial security. The areas are highlighted on the Web site. Viewers can click to find suggestions on where and how to volunteer in each area. If you’re interested in financial security, for example, you’ll find links to Habitat for Humanity, the Network for Good, AmeriCorps Vista, Help USA and more. (A “donate” button is prominently displayed on the I participate home page. You can also link to serve.usa and even download a I Participate toolkit to help organize projects in your own neighborhood.
The Youth link offers volunteer opportunities directly tied to television shows like Parks and Recreation, the Biggest Loser, CSI: NY, and even Desperate Housewives. These links have good take-it-to-the-neighborhood suggestions. For example, fans of “The Ghost Whisperer” are encouraged to organize a blood drive, make an emergency kit for an elderly neighbor or volunteer for the red cross. You can also search for volunteer opportunities in your community and get the local numbers for the Red Cross, hospitals, nursing homes and more.
This effort even extends across political boundaries, with the first former President George Bush being joined by current President Barack O’Bama in Texas over the weekend to promote the ceremony, according to CNN.
The Foundation is comprised of entertainment professionals at all levels. The organization was behind last spring’s Stand Up to Cancer effort. Financial backers of the week include major league baseball and AARP.
Other networks participating in some aspect of I Participate include Nickelodeon, Lifetime, CMT, MTV and ESPN.
CNN, “Obama, George H.W. Bush Unite to Support Volunteerism,” 16 October 2009