Tuesday, July 17, 2007

American Express Unveils Top 25 Project Ideas for The Members Project; Vote for Final Five By July 22

This morning, GoodBiz113 ad partner American Express® announced the top 25 project ideas selected as quarterfinalists for The Members Project -- the unique online initiative that's bringing American Express Cardmembers together to submit, discuss and rate ideas to make a positive impact in the world.

Thousands of Cardmembers from across the country came together to vote, narrowing the field down from the top 50 project ideas to the top 25. The top 25 project ideas range from disease research to environmental issues. Cardmembers have through Sunday, July 22, to cast their vote for the top five project ideas.

As the second voting phase of The Members Project begins, American Express is calling for Cardmembers to register and vote for their favorite project ideas, to narrow down the list to those ideas about which Cardmembers are most passionate. For every Cardmember that registers, American Express will contribute $1 toward the winning idea. American Express has committed at least $1 million and up to $5 million to bring the winning idea to life.

Following, is a complete list of the 25 quarterfinalists. [NOTE: Cardmember-selected project categories and project descriptions are in their own words.]

Arts & Entertainment
* "Bring Young Audiences to Live Theater -- This program aims to bring young audiences to non-profit theaters through student matinees, rush tickets and other means of making theater accessible to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend."
* "Women Artists: Not in the Books? Put them Online! -- With only 2% of paintings on museum walls comprised of works by female artists, this project proposes that we transfer the established library of existing female art into a universally accessible online database."

Business & Finance
* "Microcredit to Businesses in Developing Countries -- This program aims to support microfinance, one of the most sustainable and effective tools in the fight against global poverty. Microfinance emerged in the 1970s as a way to offer financial services to the working poor who were previously considered 'unbankable' due to lack of collateral."

Community Development
* "50,000 Families up From Poverty -- The practice of microlending is helping to lift many families from total poverty to self-sufficiency and better lives. This project aims to help thousands of families."
* "Bringing Water to the Poorest of the Poor -- Project designed to provide water to communities in India, Africa and impoverished areas worldwide by drilling tube wells wherever needed."
* "Help African Children Orphaned by AIDS -- This project empowers communities to care for orphans living with AIDS through education and access to treatment. Additionally the program will provide food, clothing, medicine, and counseling, while developing sustainable solutions for each orphan family."
* "Permanent Homes for American Foster Children -- Statistics show that a staggering number of kids who 'age out' of the foster care system in America without being adopted often end up homeless, in prison, or on welfare. This program proposes the creation of a neighborhood for families willing to adopt kids out of the foster care system, including senior citizen homes whose residents would act as 'grandparents' for these kids."

* "Adopt a Classroom to Support School Children -- This project is designed to motivate individuals, businesses and organizations to contribute funds to specific school teachers nationwide to enable them to purchase educational materials online which will enhance teaching opportunities in the classroom."
* "Aged Out, Kicked Out: Help Foster Kids' Futures -- With 20,000 children aging out of foster care in the U.S. each year, this project aims to create a network of mentors and programs to help children prepare for life after foster care through education, job training and life skills training."
* "Social Mobility for Youth in Low-Wage Jobs -- This program takes a comprehensive approach to ease common barriers for hard-working, low-income youth. The youth contribute a part of their paychecks to a savings account, giving them access to support for employment training, health care, logistical needs, workshops on asset building and financial management, and planning to reach their education, career, and life goals."
* "Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn. -- This program aims to create a website where public school teachers can request specific educational projects for their classrooms, and individuals can log on to choose which projects to fund, in turn, providing educational tools for students from low-income families nationwide."

Environment & Wildlife
* "Harvest the Sun -- Every day, we get up in the morning to the largest source of energy in our lives. Every roof on every building, both residential and commercial, is a potential piece of real estate for solar power generation. The goal of this project is to get 100% self-sufficiency for the average household, depending on geographic location."
* "Plant a Million Trees: Global Reforestation -- From forest fires to rainforest destruction, to natural water disasters to overdevelopment, trees are disappearing in vast numbers all over the globe. This plan suggests planting millions of trees where they are needed most."
* "Restore Our Bee population! -- This proposal propagates a replacement for the honey bee. Approximately 85% of the fruits and vegetables that are consumed rely on pollination."
* "Save Lake Winnipesaukee! [Winni-Who?] -- Lake Winnipesaukee needs action to ensure it will always be available for drinking and recreational enjoyment. Record development has caused impairments, making this idea more urgent than ever. This project's vision is to develop and implement community strategies which effectively stop threats to water quality."
* "Wind and Solar for Residential -- This project plans to create a small power-generating unit that is small and powerful enough to be placed into every residential home. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a community of homes to help generate power for the power companies to use."

Health & Fitness
* "A Cure for Autism -- One in 150 children are diagnosed with autism. This project hopes to make people more aware of autism and drives to donate funds to an organization that has an interest in curing autism."
* "Alzheimer's Disease Research -- At age 85, 50% of the population will have Alzheimer's disease. Medicaid expenditures are threatening to overwhelm state budgets. Sixty percent of family caregivers die before the person for whom they are caring. These factors have created a 'perfect storm' that will devastate our healthcare systems, unless a cure and/or prevention are found."
* "Children's Safe Drinking Water -- Four thousand children die needlessly every day from drinking contaminated water. This program aims to address this issue through an innovative and low-cost technology that effectively purifies and cleans water while removing bacteria, viruses, and parasites."
* "Cure for Alzheimer's -- The cost of caring for an Alzheimer's patient is expensive, and the number of people suffering from this disease continues to increase. This project supports the research for a cure as the disease afflicts more people every day."
* "Help Stop ALS [Lou Gehrig's Disease] -- This program seeks to provide financial assistance to the research of Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS [Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis]. This fatal disease attacks the motor neurons of a person's central nervous system as most patients live for an average of 5 years after diagnosis."
* "Prevent Blindness in Millions of People Worldwide! -- Millions of people are going blind around the world because of disease or medical complications of the eye. For only about five or six dollars, a person can be treated to prevent the onset of blindness, cataracts and other eye maladies. This winning project could literally save the sight of a million people or more around the world."
* "Treating our Troops -- This project plans to start a nationwide system of rehabilitative specialists to bridge the gap in care for troops returning from Iraq."

* "Awareness Can Build a Family -- An astonishing 90% of pregnancies involving diagnosis of Down Syndrome are terminated. This program will use public-service television, ads, booklets and more to share that the lives of people with Down Syndrome are just as valuable as everyone else."
* "Restore our U.S. National Parks -- The United States' National Parks and Historic Sites are in disrepair, and funding is needed to repair and refurbish. This project aims to provide funding to the landmarks that define our nation."

Thought Leaders Contribute to Selection Process
American Express worked with an Advisory Panel of renowned thought leaders in a variety of fields to review the top-rated projects, as rated by the Cardmembers, and select the top 50 project ideas. Based on popular Cardmember vote, the top 50 project ideas have now been narrowed down to the top 25. Cardmembers can now again cast their vote, with the top five to be announced on July 24. The winning idea will be announced on August 7, and Cardmembers can register on http://www.membersproject.com/ through August 5.

Advisory Panelists include:
* Geoff Canada -- President and CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone
* Ellen DeGeneres [pictured above] -- Comedian and Talk-Show Host
* Dr. Jane Goodall -- Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace
* Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- CNN Chief Medical Correspondent and Neurosurgeon
* Rosabeth Moss Kanter -- Harvard Business School Professor
* Dr. Michael Lomax -- President and CEO, United Negro College Fund
* Wynton Marsalis -- Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center
* Gabrielle Reece -- Professional Volleyball Player and Sports/Fitness Expert

American Express, Membership and Giving Back
American Express Company [http://www.americanexpress.com/] is a leading global payments, network and travel company founded in 1850.

American Express has been synonymous with “Membership” since it introduced “Member Since” dates on its Cards in 1964, and has continued to develop a sense of membership through the special benefits and exceptional services offered to Cardmembers. The Members Project -- which is a part of American Express’ new brand campaign, “Are You a Cardmember?[SM]” -- highlights the value of being part of the American Express Cardmember community.

Giving back is a core value of the Company, and being a “good citizen” is a hallmark of the brand. Over the years, American Express has supported causes that are important to Cardmembers, merchant partners and the general public -- from reopening the Statue of Liberty after 9/11, to fighting hunger and preserving historic sites around the world. Through these programs, including The Members Project, American Express is providing an outlet for consumers’ desire to “do good.”

Sources: American Express, Los Angeles Times [photo]

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