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Celebs still rescuing New Orleans

Marketplace Staff Aug 31, 2007

Celebs still rescuing New Orleans

Marketplace Staff Aug 31, 2007


Doug Krizner: As the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina fades from the headlines, the federal money for recovery remains tied up in red tape and bureaucracy — all $130 billion. Reconstruction has been heavily financed by private funds: Donations from schools, religious congregations, foundations and businesses have set philanthropic records. And, as John Dimsdale reports, celebrities are still coming to the rescue.

John Dimsdale: The rich musical traditions of Bayou country have helped drum up public contributions for the Gulf’s recovery.

Fundraising concerts have featured musicians with local roots such as Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr.

Harry Connick, Jr.: My first priority is to tell people all over the world how dear this city is. Don’t forget it. Come and help us out. . .

The list of celebrities that have gone to the Gulf coast and given large donations includes Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

Nobody has added up celebrity contributions, but the director of the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Elizabeth Boris, says they’ve been especially important after Katrina.

Elizabeth Boris: They’re so visible, and they put the seal of approval, you know: ‘We’re giving, we’re touched, we’re concerned and here’s one way to do it.’ They create a culture, especially among the young people, that says ‘you know it’s OK to give.’ And I think the juxtaposition of pop culture and Internet culture made a huge difference for the Hurricane Katrina efforts

The Giving USA Foundation reports total donations for disaster relief hit a record $7 billion in the year following the 2005 hurricanes. That dwindled to barely $1 billion in the second year.

Among the largest single fundraisers was the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. The well-heeled friends of former presidents George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton chipped in $130 million, but that fund has closed up shop and will soon grant its last dollar.

Stacy Palmer, the editor of the Chronicle for Philanthropy, says celebrity attention is needed now more than ever.

Stacy Palmer: This is a particularly important time, perhaps more important than it was right after Katrina, because right after it happened, I think everybody regardless of whether there was a celebrity involved, felt the need to give because we saw all those pictures of people suffering and knew how bad it was. But now is the time when a celebrity could really help.

Former president Bill Clinton will contribute some more fundraising star power next week when he begins a national tour for his new book about philanthropy and civic action. His first stop: Oprah Winfrey’s TV show.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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