For Hollywood Heavyweights, Charity as Usual No Longer Enough

When it comes to charity, a growing number of celebrities are going beyond telethons and gala event appearances, especially in the wake of disasters, the New York Times reports.

"The days of red carpet philanthropy are fast coming to an end," said the Global Philanthropy Group's Trevor Neilson. Among other things, Neilson has helped actor and architecture enthusiast Brad Pitt establish Make It Right, a New Orleans-based nonprofit that builds affordable, storm-resistent, "green" housing for residents of the Lower Ninth Ward who lost their homes to the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. To date, the organization has built fifty homes and plans to put up a hundred more, thanks in part to $5 million Pitt donated to help launch the organization.

Similarly, after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January, actor Sean Penn launched the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, which works to remove rubble from the streets of Port-au-Prince, repair the city's water and sanitation infrastructure, and supply personnel, supplies, and drugs to humanitarian medical groups working in the country. Since January, Penn has traveled frequently to the region, where J/P HRO manages a camp that is temporarily home to 55,000 people.

And while Penn's organization has been criticized by staffers at other emergency relief organizations working in Haiti, it recently received a grant from the William J. Clinton Foundation. "I think our organization has been a bit of a shot in the arm to everyone, because we're getting things done and getting noticed," said Penn, "and there are people who are maybe a little envious or bitter about that. The mission of J/P HRO is to serve the needs of the Haitian people and not the egos of [nongovernmental organizations]."

Stephanie Strom. "Putting Star Power Behind Good Works." New York Times 11/10/2010.