It was inevitable. For a time, Katrina, New Orleans and the resulting rescue and recovery effort were top of mind, page-one news. About one year later, in 2006, the media had left, moving to the next story. Tourism, the city’s main revenue source, slowly returned, as visitors enjoyed the refurbished downtown and French Quarter. Tourist spots were just one part of the picture, though. The city’s outlying residential areas still reflected their dubious honor of having absorbed the storm’s worst punishment.

That’s where Cox New Orleans and employee Brad Grundmeyer entered the picture. While proud of what Cox had done to rebuild the city — giving employees a paid vacation day for each day they volunteered, totaling some $130,000 — Grundmeyer and Cox realized the tide of volunteers from outside New Orleans had ebbed. Moreover, it wasn’t easy for potential volunteers; there was no clearinghouse matching volunteers with local groups that needed them.

Grundmeyer and Cox attacked that problem by creating Volunteer New Orleans (VNO), whose site became a one-stop resource for volunteers. Designed pro bono by a Cox client, the site informs volunteers about groups that need them. They also can find information about housing, transportation and food. Eventually the site became an interactive database, allowing volunteers to select opportunities based on keywords, dates and other factors. More than 265,000 people have visited the site to date and thousands of volunteers have been placed with needy groups.

VNO grew even more when Volunteers of America and the United Way approached it and Cox. The resulting partnership has led to a staff that coordinates volunteer efforts.

Realizing the need to counteract the decline in non-local volunteers, VNO also works to encourage local volunteerism. And it’s entered local schools to teach volunteerism.

Fast Facts

  • VNO is the only full and interactive Web site for volunteerism in New Orleans; it boasts the most extensive listing of resources, an online database and a paid staff of volunteers.

  • Studies show that discovering the importance of volunteerism at an early age makes for a more engaged and active citizen. This prompted VNO to design a volunteerism curriculum for local schools.

  • In March 2007, VNO’s Volunteer Week recruited some 630 volunteers to partner with Habitat for Humanity, New Orleans City Park and Volunteers of America. Its overwhelming success led to plans to make Volunteer Week an annual event.



Diversity in media is an issue that receives much ink and lots of talk. Unfortunately, things sometimes stop at that point. NBC Universal’s On The Set effort makes sure that learning about media by doing is the order of the day for many high school students.

One dozen students, selected on the basis of their essays or short videos about diversity and the media, attend a weeklong internship at NBC Universal in New York City. They learn the fundamentals of television production and work with industry pros, focusing on writing, directing and pre- and post-production. The endgame is that the students create and produce on-camera spots and promotions that emphasize diversity. In addition, each of their schools receives $1,000 for their television media arts program or to create one if it doesn’t exist.

The $200,000 program involved students from schools in the footprint of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and Bright House Networks. To bolster participation, NBCU sent cable affiliates an initial mailing outlining the program. Participating cable affiliates received educational kits to send to local schools to encourage students to enter the program.

Last year the effort reached beyond the dozen students and their schools. NBCU and cable affiliates hosted two-day workshops on television production at local high schools. A curriculum was developed for the workshops in partnership with NAMIC and The Cable Center. In addition, students were able to produce PSAs relevant to their communities; the spots later ran in those communities.

What a way for NBCU and local cable operators to shine a light on cable’s commitment to local schools, demonstrate cable’s value beyond programming and, most important, provide hands-on experience for students, with an emphasis on diversity in media.

Fast Facts

  • NBCU On The Set received more than $375,000 PR value in event press exposure via consumer publications, consumer Web sites, cable trades and TV appearances, including on NBC’s The Today Show.

  • Local and national spots touting the program ran across all NBCU programming units and reached more than 9 million subscribers.

Honorable Mentions:

Comcast’s English on Demand — A Comcast Boston employee formulated a plan to put English as a Second Language classes on Comcast On Demand so students could watch classes at home on their own schedule.

ESPN’s Jimmy V Week — ESPN augmented its Jimmy V men’s and women’s basketball classics with a week-long tribute to the deceased coach, incorporating content on multiple platforms, raising some $525,000 for cancer research.

Cartoon Network’s Rescuing Recess — To support the benefits of unstructured physical activity for school children and fight the tripling of overweight American kids since 1980, Cartoon Network committed resources to raise awareness of the importance of recess.

Bright House Networks’ Operation Bright Eyes — Bright House Networks joined law enforcement agencies in 10 Indiana communities to train its field and service technicians to be extra sets of eyes, ears and hands in the areas where they work.

Mediacom’s Be a Pet Champion Adoption Series — Mediacom produced a series on its local origination channel and VOD to encourage Florida viewers to adopt pets at shelters rather than buy pets, thus reducing the incidence of euthanization.

Gospel Music Channel for Ambassador Program — Gospel Music Channel contacted leaders in 2,700 churches in six key markets, seeking to recruit ambassadors within churches who would build awareness of Gospel. It now has 720 affiliated churches and is continuing the program in ’08.

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