Philanthropist Earl Stafford to launch online effort encouraging volunteerism

By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 20, 2010; B03

Northern Virginia philanthropist Earl W. Stafford and comedian Bill Cosby are planning to announce a new Internet-based effort on Wednesday to encourage more Americans to volunteer by telling them about other people's good deeds.

Doing Good: The People's Project will list volunteer opportunities and provide information about groups that are engaging in volunteer projects, Stafford said.

The effort is a continuation of Stafford's People's Inaugural Project, which brought hundreds of poor, sick and homeless people to Washington to participate in events surrounding President Obama's inauguration.

Stafford said he scheduled the announcement of his new effort on the first anniversary of Obama's inauguration. Cosby has filmed a public service announcement for the project.

Stafford, who last year sold his Centreville technology company to Lockheed Martin, said he was prompted to encourage volunteerism after witnessing the generosity of people who contacted him during the inauguration with offers to help with his project.

Cosby said Tuesday that he got in touch with Stafford after hearing about the People's Inaugural Ball. He praised Stafford's foundation for its work in the United States and abroad in countries such as Haiti, where Stafford has traveled three times on mission trips for his church. Stafford has given $50,000 to the earthquake relief effort there and has pledged to match some funds from other donors.

"I am an admirer of Mr. Stafford," said Cosby, who wore a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words "Doing Good." "What he did really inspired Mrs. Cosby to make me do what she wanted me to do, and that was to call Earl and volunteer to give him an evening or a day of Bill Cosby to help him in whatever promotion he wanted."

Stafford has been involved in charitable work for years. Last month, he was recognized by the Salvation Army of Greater New York with its first Stand Together Award. He was named last year to Ebony magazine's Power 150 and in November was given the Outstanding Philanthropist Award by the Washington chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Mary Virginia of Washington, who attended the People's Inaugural Ball, said Stafford helped restore her "dignity."

Stafford said he received 9,000 calls and e-mails offering to help with the ball.

"At the Stafford Foundation, our focus is to collaborate with others who seek to do good, other agencies," he said. "So after the People's Inaugural Project, we made a vow to stay in contact with our guests and those we brought in. . . . We want to work with them to spread the word that doing good feels good."

Cosby said that is why he signed on to help.

"It is a good idea for people to find out about groups that are doing good," he said.

Post a Comment

Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company