Everyday heroes help drive Volvo's public-service effort

NEW YORK: At a news conference last week, Volvo Cars of North America CEO Vic Doolan unveiled a multiyear public-service program called the Volvo For Life Awards.

NEW YORK: At a news conference last week, Volvo Cars of North America CEO Vic Doolan unveiled a multiyear public-service program called the Volvo For Life Awards.

The initiative is designed to honor ordinary people who contribute to their communities in the areas of safety, quality of life, and the environment.

"This is a grassroots program," said Roger Ormisher, Volvo's VP of public affairs. "Word of mouth and media coverage are the two things that will drive it."

"It's up to one person telling another, and so forth," said Doolan at the conference. "Making this program organic reflects the grassroots manner in which our heroes act to make the world a better place."

At the conference, Doolan introduced four "local heroes" to launch the program: 16-year-old Joshua Marcus of Boca Raton, FL, who raises money to buy school supplies for disadvantaged kids; Harold Overman of Spirit Lake, IA, who helped install wind turbines to power local schools; and Mary Whitehead and Robert Hughes, both of St. Louis, who rescued a woman trapped inside a burning truck.

Through a new website, volvoforlifeawards.com, the company will solicit other nominations of local heroes, and local dealers will also participate in promotional activities. Volvo will select 10 finalists, and award them each $10,000. A panel of celebrity judges - including former US Senator Bill Bradley, former astronaut Sally Ride, author Maya Lin, and others - will select three winners, each receiving $50,000 for their favorite charities. A top winner will get a free Volvo for life.

The awards ceremony itself will take place in Times Square in April.

Volvo will be working with Minneapolis-based agency Haberman & Associates, which has handled two previous Times Square events for Volvo.

"Over the next two months, we'll be promoting and publicizing nominees in their local markets, so we can inspire others to nominate people, and inspire individuals to make outstanding contributions to their communities," said Fred Haberman, founder of Haberman & Associates. "Our whole mission as a company is to tell the stories of pioneers or heroes in the world. It feeds right into this program," he said.

"They focus on people, which is right for our brand - we're a people brand," added Volvo's Ormisher.

Volvo expects to spend about $1 million on the program in the first year, and grow it in the years ahead. "The ramp-up period in the first year is only two months. This is going to grow over time," said Soren Johansson, manager or corporate communications for Volvo.

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