16 Oct

I recently came across a new initiative from the Entertainment Industry Foundation that I wanted to share. It’s called iParticipate, and its coming soon to a television near you…

According to their website, the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) “harnesses the collective power of the entertainment industry and channels its unique assets to raise awareness and funds for critical health, educational and social issues in order to make a positive impact in our community and throughout the nation”. You’ve probably seen PSA‘s from the EIF without even knowing who was responsible for them: Felicity Huffman raising breast cancer awareness, Morgan Freeman for colorectal cancer, Christina Ricci with Stand Up to Cancer. Many more have been created, and for over 65 years EIF has been educating, raising awareness, and raising money for research not only in the United States, but internationally as well, using the power of celebrity.

Their latest initiative, iParticipate, is not a surprising addition to their resume. Service and volunteerism are hot topics in our country right now, thanks to the Serve America Act and other government/city programs, so it’s only natural that a large organization like EIF would follow suit. iParticipate is a multi-year program designed to inspire a new era of service in the US. It will kick off next week on October 19th; in addition to PSA’s, the EIF has enlisted numerous television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, to name a few) to participate in encouraging viewers to give back to their community, and prove the power of community. Many shows have written service and volunteerism into their story lines or segments (for shows like The View and David Letterman), and it should be interesting to see how each chooses to shed light on the subject, given the diversity of the 90+ participating shows, which include The Office, Desperate Housewives, Heroes, and CSI:Miami. For a full list of participating shows, you can visit the iParticipate blog on their website. One show I am most looking forward to is 30 Rock; according to a USA Today article, Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer), who has embraced faux charities including Pants for Zoo Animals in past episodes, gets emotionally wrapped up with abandoned dogs from an animal shelter. I love 30 Rock, I love Tina Fey as a writer and actress, and I am excited to see how next week plays out.

In addition to the week-long kick-off, iParticipate has also created a widget (which you can pick up here) to help you search for local volunteer opportunities by zip code and area of interest. Feel free to test it out at the end of the post-it worked for me, returning about 20 listings in my area.

iParticipate will be able to reach a lot of people, using prime-time television as a vehicle for delivering their message. Whether or not it will increase the number of volunteers, I don’t know. Judging by the comments left on a lot of blogs and online news sources, it seems some people are not impressed with force-fed information about volunteerism, and are downright insulted that in the current economic climate, we as a nation are being asked to give our time away and work for free. It’s understandable, but I don’t share their sentiment. Taking a few hours out of my day to help clean up an animal shelter or serve food to a group of homeless co-citizens, doesn’t seem unreasonable, especially when there often isn’t money to pay someone to do these things. But I digress…

Regardless of the outcome, I think this is a great initiative that will undoubtedly grab the attention of the nation next week, for better or worse. Be it through subtle hints in plot lines or PSA’s during commercial breaks, it should become clear to many people that volunteering isn’t always as hard or time-consuming as they previously thought, and there are many ways to give back to your community and country.



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