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Volunteering since September 11, 2001: Website matches people, causes

Volunteering has become a way to commemorate September 11, 2001. Organizers of 911dayofservice.org hope it will channel people’s willingness to help year-round.

By Staff writer / September 10, 2010

Volunteering has become a way to commemorate September 11, 2001. A new website – 911dayofservice.org – aims to make it easier for people to match themselves up with causes they support.

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Saturday is not only a day of remembrance, but also a national day of service – a way to recapture the spirit of unity that many Americans felt after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

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A new website – 911dayofservice.org – aims to make it easier for people to match themselves up with causes they support. Think of it as an eHarmony of sorts for doers of good deeds. Organizers hope it will channel people’s willingness for volunteering year-round.

By plugging in keywords and a ZIP Code, you can find profiles of nearby nonprofits. Click on various buttons if you want to donate, volunteer, or simply spread the word about a cause on your social-networking sites. All the nonprofits in the United States – more than 850,000 of them – are in the database.

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If you’d rather dream up your own good deed, there’s a place to post that, too.

“We want everyone to be able to get involved in remembering what happened on 9/11 in a constructive way,” says David Paine, president and co-founder of MyGoodDeed.org, which sprang up to promote service in the wake of the attacks and is hosting the new website.

“In most cases ... the first question people are asked is, ‘Will you volunteer?,’ and our research shows that only about 11 percent will say yes.... But if you ask people, ‘What do you care about? What do you believe in?,’ most people will tell you they’re interested in helping,” Mr. Paine says.

According to the new website's Facebook page, people plan to mark the day by doing everything from donating blood to being “peaceful in thoughts, words, and action.” A mom and her sons will be painting storm drains in Renton, Wash. In Marion, Texas, a group will be welcoming three severely injured veterans into new specially adapted homes.

Last year, when a much simpler version of the site was launched, 300,000 people from 165 countries posted good deeds around the time of the 9/11 anniversary.

The website offers “karma points” for various actions – points that may eventually lead to grants or prizes for nonprofits and their supporters.

If you’re into what’s trending, you’ll also be able to see which organizations are galvanizing the most support, as traffic on the site builds up.

Of special interest to parents and teachers: a large collection of age-appropriate 9/11 lesson plans and oral-history videos.

“These tools will engage our nation’s youth in service that engenders global understanding and a greater appreciation for American resilience and spirit,” said Patrick Corvington, the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, in announcing the website. The public-private partnership is one of the many organizations promoting 9/11 as a day of service.

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