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Virtual Thanksgiving dinner helps feed the hungry

By Benny Evangelista , San Francisco Chronicle

1741 days ago   Article ID# 206856
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United Nations World Food Programme

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (San Francisco Chronicle) - With people across the United States gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving, there's a topical game-style application making the rounds on Facebook that let you host a virtual holiday dinner to raise real-world funds for the United Nations World Food Programme.

With "Thanksgiving Feast," Facebook members can host a dinner and invite their friends to join with their dishes of turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie or more.

The start up company behind the app, SocialVibe of West Hollywood, makes a donation to the World Food Program for each dinner hosted and each dish brought to the table.

So far, the app - which started Sunday and runs through the holiday weekend - has brought in enough for about 30,000 meals, said SocialVibe chief executive officer Jay Samit.

The game players don't have to donate a dime. The funds come from revenue that SocialVibe sponsors pay to place short interactive activities within the game.

Macy's, for example, asked players to type in what's at the top of their holiday gift lists, while the makers of an new natural sweetener called Truvia requests photos of a players' "sweetest moment.''

Thanksgiving Feast is an example of how SocialVibe plans to use the vast reach of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace for community causes.

That's a growing trend. The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation is current running a tweet-a-thon to help grant the wish of a 4-year-old boy with a life-threatening illness. LeapFish, a Pleasanton search engine, has pledged to donate $10,000 if 100,000 Twitter messages are sent, but is far short of the goal.

SocialVibe is a for-profit company that offers advertisers a way to get their brands into social media conversations while at the same time helping charities and non-profit organizations.

Technology watchers may remember Samit as a forward-thinking record industry executive who helped usher EMI into the post-Napster digital world earlier this decade. Later, he was an executive vice president of Sony Corporation of America in charge of new digital distribution services.

Samit hopes some of the millions of people who play social games like Farmville will take time to check out Thanksgiving Feast.

"It only takes a couple of moments a day to change the world,'' Samit said.

Copyright 2014 San Francisco Chronicle   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1741 days ago   Article ID# 206856

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