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
Now, what originally seemed a legislative longshot, appears likely to
"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
Most members of Participate America are facilitators of civic
Many, including Capitol Advantage, run websites that allow Americans to
communicate directly with legislators via e-mail.