Public affairs groups gun for Civic Week vote on Hill

WASHINGTON: In a move that now seems oddly prescient, a loose

gathering of public affairs businesses launched a national effort back

in July to dedicate one week in September to Americans who volunteer for

domestic causes and the furthering of democracy. That effort seems

likely to become a reality.



Calling themselves Participate America, groups such as Capitol

Advantage, the National Civic League, e-advocates, the Close Up

Foundation, and the American Society of Association Executives targeted

the third week in September as a time to reflect on the many ways

Americans "get involved." The hope was to highlight people who do

volunteer work, write letters to legislators, or contribute to political

campaigns. The week was chosen because it falls between the re-opening

of schools and election day.



But following September 11, and the subsequent outpouring of

volunteerism around the country, the coalition and the senators who were

sponsoring the resolution brought the proposed week forward to

September 11-17.



Now, what originally seemed a legislative longshot, appears likely to

pass.



"The bill was introduced in July, and then September 11 came along and

brought that bill into even more significance," said Bob Hanson,

president of Capitol Advantage. "It's kind of amazing we just happened

to pick that week of September."



Golin/Harris, which has worked with Capitol Advantage on other projects,

was brought in to perform pro-bono PR work for the coalition. Both the

agency and Participate America are concentrating on building public

support to pass the bill and raise awareness of what they call National

Civic Week. Those efforts include a full-page ad in Washington weekly

The Hill, letters sent to every senator asking for support, and the new

ParticipateAmerica.org website, where citizens can voice their support

to Congress.



Most members of Participate America are facilitators of civic

involvement.



Many, including Capitol Advantage, run websites that allow Americans to

communicate directly with legislators via e-mail.



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