November 2nd, 2009
01:50 PM ET

Should celebs' charity begin at home?

Over the past week, we've chronicled Don Cheadle and friends playing poker to benefit Darfur, Selena Gomez working for UNICEF, and Anthony Edwards running the New York City Marathon to help build a Kenyan children's hospital.  Each time, we've received at least one comment along these lines: "What about all of the problems here?  Why don't these stars help Americans first?"

It's not an unreasonable question - though maybe those folks missed our coverage of Georgia flood relief, David Spade helping firefighters, Moby donating concert proceeds to domestic violence shelters, and our first Find The Good story, Ludacris helping donate cars to people in need.

It's true that many of the highest-profile celebrity charity efforts seem to be aimed overseas.  Is that because those projects seem more exotic, or is the need there truly greater?  Plenty of stars are working to solve domestic problems, from David Arquette's constant work with food banks to Adam Lambert helping schoolkids to Soleil Moon Frye's advocacy of Alzheimer's awareness.  And let's not forget the king of celebrity philanthropy: the late Paul Newman, whose Newman's Own foundation has donated more than $280 million to thousands of different charities, in the U.S. and around the world.

But back to our question: should American celebs focus on American causes, or is all charitable work laudable, regardless of location?  And for those who favor domestic efforts, what should take priority?  (Are you doing anything toward that cause?)  And do you know of any stars whose work we should be profiling here?

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. david

    celebrities are just pushing capitalism onto these other countries and creating poverty for these poor people. These people need livestock, crops, and the only thing celebrities should spend money on is a water source. America,however,is stuck in capitalism, so celebrities should be donating money for school, food, homes, clothing, and poverty. This quote about how america is the land of opportunity and you can go from rags to riches, needs to change. Forget about how some people are poor and its their own fault, and focus on the child that will not be helped. Forget about the people that dont deserve the help and focus on helping the people who do need help. We just have to settle in the fact that celebrities arent going to help america with what poor people need. were going to have to band together and help anyone we can,even if its just one person or family.

    November 17, 2009 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. patriotic patsy

    Charity should begin right here at our front door and when all the problems in our own country are fixed then take it somewhere else. We have underpriviledged in this country too. They should be everyones first priority. The more we make right in our own country the more man power to help elsewhere. Anyone who contributes to underprividledged in other countries and not to their own should go live and become a citizen of the country they care about more than their own.

    November 4, 2009 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Wendy

    Charity doesnt start with money. I starts with you, each of you, taking a weekend out of your time to give your time. If every person in America donated ONE DOLLAR to the Red Cross, just imagine the size of that donation? I mean really, what is one dollar to any one? Even if you are on food stamps or if you are on welfare, I would be willing to bet that you still visit McDonalds or that you have atleast one dollar in change burried in your car, purse or house somewhere...

    Also, There is a lot of slaming of Brad Pitt and Jolie...Brad Pitt has a foundation that he continually raises money for that is dedicated to rebuilding New Orleans.

    Why dont we see this? Because the media does not choose to air it. It is more sensational to show George Clooney going to Africa, or Madonna breaking ground for a new place for chidlren in Africa.

    Bottom line, if you buy into Obama's proposals of the redistribution of wealth, this will not be an issue much longer right?

    November 4, 2009 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. L Ackermann

    I no longer give financial support to any organization if any of the money goes outside the United States. I would rather not have the tax deduction than knowing my money is going out of the United States.

    No one outside the United States helps us; most of them have their hands out for more money, support. We are targets from every organization, whether political, financial, social, economic, or terrorist.

    I help my church "IN THE US," I help non-profit organizations "IN THE US," I help my community "IN THE US."

    I can't be responsible for every person on the earth. In today's age of give me, give me, give me, I won't be responsible for every person on the earth. I will, however, continue to help US organizations which help US people.

    November 4, 2009 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Amit

    American celebs can focus on any chaitable work either in the US or overseas since it's their money and they have every right to spend as any other celeb\non-celeb. Ofcourse few of them do it purely for publicity which is evident by itself or for getting tax benefits (somehow).

    I think the main reason why celebs prefer overseas is because they compare the comfortable and secure living in their home country to that in the third world (refugee camps, etc) This can motivate atleast most of them to handout charity without thinking cause its good karma anyway and its gets them the mileage they need to fulfill their career aspirations.

    You have profiled the notable ones in this blog but I would like to highlight those that are non-celebs like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton etc who have also contributed a lot through their respective foundations.

    November 4, 2009 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mike H.

    I don't see how one can reasonably offer assistance to another family in another home when his/her own family and home are in dire need of care. I have no way of knowing whether celebrities are ashamed of the USA or if they feel that we are responsible in some way for the poor living conditions in other parts of the world. Regardless, I do think that Americans too often neglect this country - either by sending funds to another nation for building a school, or by purchasing a foreign car, or buy sitting back and being quiet while our manufacturing plants close and move to Mexico or China.

    November 4, 2009 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rainey

    They should adopt schools in depressed areas and give back. Forget about it being "in" to go abroad with generosity. This country is in desperate need and a sincere generous heart would rather keep it at home instead of worrying about getting their name in the news. Just look what Brad Pitt is doing for New Orleans. More should follow his lead.

    November 4, 2009 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Andrea

    The celebs are just as bad as our government when it comes to aiding other countries but their own. Can you imagine how many people in OUR country could be helped with all the money that is given to other countries and wars fought on foreign soil supposedly to help the others. A lot of those countries will never be able to maintain whatever they've been given by our country, when we finally pull out. And it makes you wonder if they even appreciate it! Yes there are children starving all over the world and it is wonderful that folks like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have adopted so many of these helpless kids. But then again, don't we have helpless kids in our OWN country! The media broadcasts these "informercials", trying to make us feel guilty if we don't send money for these foreign kids. What about sending money to OUR homeless?

    I've seen many of the homeless right here in So Florida; and it's very sad and downright pitiful that they have no voice.

    November 4, 2009 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Annoyed

    Debra R: I apologize for sounding harsh. It really wasn't my intent. I do understand where you were coming from in your post though and how it may have appeared that I was comparing the "popualrity-hungry celebrities" to the men and women who fight for our county. I do appreciate the sacrifice you and your family has made. Family are still serving their country while their loved ones are away or deployed.

    November 3, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Debra R

    re: Annoyed: very true...I did not ready your post all the way thru...I have nothing but respect for our military....I are right.... got a bit off point there...anyway...people will always support the causes that are dear to their own hearts....

    November 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Annoyed

    To Debra R: Im actually part of the United States Army as a 46R and I have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 and I VOLUNTEERED to enlist because I wanted to show my support for those who served before me such as my grandfather, father, and older brother. I applaud the fact that your family has had 4 generations of brave Servicemembers volunteer their time and service to their country. I was not comparing military personnel to celebrities...I was merely voicing my opinion that people should not be whining and complaining how wealthy and loaded celebrities spend their money on charities that other people may feel like they are trying to boost their popularity. If people want to be selfless and donate to the greater good, then they can look at the military as an option...even though they may not support why we're at war...we should still support the men and women and their sacrifice for their country. Money is not the solution for everything...time and service can be even more valuable than money. I find it appauling how American citizens have the audacity to protest troops because they feel like they are supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My post was telling people to not complain about what celebrities do with THEIR time and THEIR money. Rather focusing on them, citizens should be focusing on what they can do to help their community locally, throughout the state, or for their country. I'm glad you find my post laughable because obviously you didn't really read through it.

    November 3, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gretchen

    Definitely they should remember that charity begins at HOME.

    November 3, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lori

    I have always wondered why they do not focus their talents and efforts towards assisting those in need here in the United States. I do understand that it is their time and money and they can do with it as they please yet it would be wonderful to see such excitement generated for an American community and its women and children.As a local volunteer I can attest to the desperate need.

    November 3, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Debra R

    Clarification of think globally and ACT locally.... I meant was that some of us who do NOT have the international connections can also give where we live.
    Re: comparing celebs to our people serving in the military: As a member of a family who has had FOUR generations VOLUNTEER fo active service I find the comparision laughable at best. Military: personnell are putting their lives on the line. Celebs whine if they don't get blue M & M s in their rider. Yester year celeb served in the armed forces: Jimmy Stewart, Joe DiMaggio. Now Celebs like George Clooney make their living denegrating the military. the only celebs that actually served in the military these days are from country music: Craig Morgan, Jason Michael Carroll, or they go overseas to comfort the military: Toby Keith, Darryl Worley, Kellie Pickler. Hollyweird give aid and confort to the enemy ala Jane Fonda.

    November 3, 2009 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ann

    What difference does it make if a celebrity donated food to a local food pantry, or gardening tools and a bag of seeds to a family in Equador? These are humans who need help, and they are helping.

    November 3, 2009 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  16. solo piano

    don cheadle is a class act, but i didn't know that he plays cards.

    November 3, 2009 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  17. Annoyed

    People don't realize how hard life can be for individuals and families less fortunate from other parts in the world. Yes there are millions of people right here in the United States who struggle on a day to day basis. Yet, there are also entire populations and civilzations who struggle to survive and overcome decades and even generations of hardships, relocation, oppression, and tyranny. There are people in the world who don't have the luxury of food, water, shelter, and safety. Perhaps celebrities want to give back to a world who has given them so much. Rather than look at them as media-hungry, weathly individuals, why not appreciate the fact that they're actually doing something. I'm sure there are celebrities who donate time and money to help boost their ego and their popularity, but we shouldn't assume that all celebrities who participate in charities are all looking out for themselves or for their own greater good. If you have a problem with how celebrities in the US are spending their money, then you get off your butt and do something for the citizens in your community, state, and country. If you really want to be selfless and donate your time to your country, then enlist in the military!! Hundreds of our own people are dying overseas for a war that they may not believe in, yet they do it because they have a sense of obligation to protect the freedoms and rights that all Americans have the right to enjoy. Servicemembers fight for the freedom of other are you going to whine that the military fights for selfish reasons, glory and an ego boost? Don't complain what celebrities are doing because you may not agree with them. They're actually doing something to help the world rather than sit around and wait for our own problems to be fixed, which most of the US population does.

    November 2, 2009 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Amy

    YES they should help more in the US. There is sooo many problems here in this country too. We have kids starving, under educated kids.. Just think how that could boost the economy... For example: build a new school.. gives kids a better chance, gives jobs to people who make books, builders, etc, helps over all economy... or let see.. A free clinic, the needed medical supplies to help families, also increasing the need for jobs because more producted needed. or cloth orphans or lets see food banks are always in need and with the holidays coming they are going to be in some serious need, most of them are already maxed out.. I try to help out as much as I can but where is everyone else? I think the more money you make the more you should be able to HELP out your fellow Americans. They are using AMERICAN money to help outsides while America is falling apart

    November 2, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Gwendolyn

    While a very small number of celebs help within this country – the publicity it seems and the "in" thing now is to focus on other countries. It is extremely sad the suffering many around the world are experiencing true. But, there is also suffering here within the country that pays their salaries. Kudo's to the few that help at home and well for the others – kudo's to you for at least sharing a small portion of your millions.

    November 2, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Giver

    The judgment in some of these comments is very sad! If celebrities DIDN"T use their money to help people, you would condemn them for not do anything but, when they DO use their money to help people, you slam them because you say they want attention. Some may do it for publicity but many celebrities use their popularity to highlight the causes that they support. It is no different than Michael J. Fox testifying to Congress about Parkinson's Disease. I don't think anyone would question his motives!

    And thanks, Debra R, for trying to ridicule me with "Think globally. ACT locally." That slogan actually was used in reference to the environment and I am proud to say that my family does that. It DOESN'T mean that you only give money and time locally with disregard to the starving children in Africa, etc.. The Bible says [I'm Christian and am citing the Bible because that it what I know, not because it is the only religious source in the world] to love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus defines "neighbor" as anyone, not just relatives, not just those that live in my neighborhood, city, state, or country, and not just those that you like or love. You are certainly free to believe that your money and time should go only to local causes but you really need to let others do what they feel called to do without criticizing their motives or telling them that they are wrong.


    November 2, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Karen

    Whatever the reason, or for whom they are being charitable, at least they are doing SOMETHING good with their time and money. Would it be nice if it stayed within the domestic realm? Yes. But we have no right to judge those who choose to do good work, so long as they are making a difference.

    November 2, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Angelynn

    I do feel that you have omitted Michael Jackson. i realize that his philanthropy was kept quiet, and yes, some of his work was for over seas, but he had made HUGE donations and assistance within America. He is also to have 20% of his estate going to charity after his death. I would be rather curious to know if he is greater than your "King of celebrity philanthropy :the late Paul Newman"

    November 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  23. A Kuhn

    I believe that celebrities use their high profile status and money to raise awareness of people in other countries where their governments will not step in to see that they are having their basic needs met let alone make sure that all are treated equal. If we aren't helping these people, then who is? There IS truely greater need overseas.

    Also, there is a true display of gratefulness by the people that are being helped by celebrities. I think there is a clear misperception by Americans of the way non-Americans live. Their lives are not like ours, their opportunities are not like our, their hopes and their dreams are, however, the same.

    Why do Americans care so much about how someone else chooses to spend their money? Why are we not just proud that our fellow Americans care about other people whether or not we agree with who it is? I think if 5 more people in this world are more aware of the living situations of those in third world countries then they've done their job. Would it have had the same effect if I had run the NYC marathon on behalf of the children of Kenya? Sadly, I think not.

    November 2, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  24. E Robinson

    I always questioned why celebrities help the poor overseas when we need help. There are so many organizations in the U.S. that need help. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt help and adopt children overseas. I was wondering if she would ever start an organization to help single mothers that were abandoned by their childrens father. There are many children that do wiithout because of this. I think Angelina Jolie could help a lot of women who love her efforts.

    November 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Eugene, Tampa

    It's hard to knock an act of kindness but let's not be fooled. If a celeb is out of the media then they fail to be a celebrity, which is why they need a big splash, hence the high profile projects in blighted countries.

    Bottom line is perception is everything. Are there truly needy Americans? Yes, of course, but there are also those "needy" Americans who are playing the system or have come to have a sense of entitlement.

    I worked in public assistance for a while and had people on food stamps refuse to go to a food bank because they didn't like the selection of food, and others who said they couldn't get to school to get new skills, or to a job, because they didn't have a car – but then refused the free bus passes from the state because it took to long to get there on the bus.

    Which leads back to the perception issue. Hard to feel bad for someone who is turning away charity because it doesn't meet their wants.

    November 2, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Debra R

    True Americans do not NEED celebs to be generous...but celebs in most cases NEED the publicity and ego stroking that exotic location based charities give them. America is the most generous country in the world. We need to "Think globally and ACT locally"

    November 2, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Giver

    How can you knock any act of charity that goes to help those less fortunate regardless of where it goes??? I personally think it is very presumptuous for people to judge whether a celebrity's [or anyone's for that matter!] charitable donations/work is going to the "right" place. My family gives locally and globally to causes that we believe in but we are VERY careful to give to reputable organizations. That would be my only advice to people that want to give. There are many scammers out there that use names similar to popular organizations or wrap themselves in the flag or bear a religious symbol when they don't truly represent those values. To be safe, we accept NO phone or e-mail solicitations, choosing to give to organizations that we know are on the up and up.

    November 2, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Janeen Taylor

    They hardly ever "adopt" American, so why should we expect them to focus on American causes first.

    November 2, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Tigvin

    If a majority of their earnings have come from the US, than I believe they should help those in the US. Our schools are in desperate need. If our children don't get the education they need to succeed, there will be many more in need. We need to fix our own backyard first so we can fix the rest.

    November 2, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |

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