Stars donate time, money to victims

In the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters to take place in United States history, celebrities are speaking out and joining forces to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx, who is working with the NAACP on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, got together with evacuees and said, “Celebrities should get giving when the going gets tough.” He is living up to his word.

Actor Morgan Freeman is leading a celebrity effort to help victims of the hurricane. “You have to do something,” he said. “You can’t just look at that kind of devastation and pain and not reach out.”

Freeman has teamed up with the American Red Cross and Charity Folks, an online auction venue, for one of the largest relief auctions in history. Freeman, who lives in the Mississippi Delta, announced that the auction will run through Sept. 16. Winnings include the opportunity to attend a screening of Freeman’s upcoming film, “An Unfinished Life,” a stay in a resort, and memorabilia packages from various movies. Proceeds will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

On the first show of her third season, Ellen DeGeneres, a New Orleans native, devoted her entire show to the disaster. DeGeneres’ 82-year-old aunt, cousins and friends had their homes destroyed in the hurricane and she has made plans to start a hurricane relief fund.

“Whether you have family there or not, it’s a devastating situation,” she said.

Fellow talk show host Jay Leno is currently collecting celebrity signatures on a Harley Davidson bike that he plans to auction on e-Bay. Leno previously raised $810,000 for tsunami victims in Asia by doing the same thing.

America’s favorite talk show host Oprah Winfrey devoted the first two shows of her new season to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. “I was sitting at home, feeling frustrated and useless like so many other people, so I came down to personally assess how I could best be of service,” she said in an interview with The New York Times.

The show featured stories from all over the Gulf Coast and highlighted the relief efforts by Chris Rock, Julia Roberts, Lisa Marie Presley and others.

Pop singer Hilary Duff has pledged $200,000 to the Red Cross and $50,000 to USA Harvest, an organization that is supplying food to shelters. The 17-year-old actress is also encouraging fans to bring canned food donations to her concerts.

Heartthrob Colin Farrell donated more than just his time when he auctioned himself for $20,000, while fellow human auction item Paris Hilton was brought to tears when one fan bid $200,000 to help in relief efforts. Rosie O’Donnell donated $3 million to be spread over the next three years to provide emergency child care services, while Sean “Diddy” Combs and Jay-Z each pledged $1 million.

Celebrities are not just donating their money and time, they are also using their names and status to get the word out about the importance of helping the victims of the hurricane.

E! Network will produce a public service announcement to support the American Red Cross, featuring Eva Longoria, Pamela Anderson, Destiny’s Child, Steve Carell, Nicole Richie, John Larroquette, Mariah Carey, Carlos Santana and Paula Abdul.

According to the network, “The PSAs are designed to help educate the public on disaster and emergency preparedness as well as to help raise awareness of the need for monetary donations to aid the relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

As celebrities are doing what they can to help by donating money, food and participating in telethons, they are also speaking out about the role the government played in helping the victims.

On “Larry King Live,” Celine Dion burst into tears when she spoke about the disaster. Dion charged President Bush with being more interested in the Middle East than his own backyard.

“How come it’s so easy to send planes in another country to kill everyone in a second, to destroy lives, at a time when Americans need to serve their own country?” she asked.

Rapper-producer Kanye West took part in an NBC live telethon for the victims spoke out about the treatment of blacks in the disaster.

“I hate the way they treat us in the media, when you see a black family it says they’re looting, when you see a white family it says they’re looking for food,” West said. “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” During an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” West told the talk show host that he wanted to highlight certain points that people were not addressing.

In a collective effort, the six broadcast networks presented a one-hour commercial-free simulcast that featured several celebrities including Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow, Dixie Chicks, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Aniston. The event was a concert called, “Shelter From the Storm,” that saluted the citizens of the devastated Gulf Coast areas and paid tribute to the rescue personnel guiding relief efforts in the region.

Perhaps the words of New Orleans native, Harry Connick Jr., in an interview he did on “The Today Show” sum up what we can only hope will take place in New Orleans. “New Orleans is my essence, my soul, my muse and I can only dream that one day she will recapture her glory,” he said.