Do Celebrities Inspire Volunteerism?

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. – Anne Frank

We are a celebrity-obsessed culture.   We devour the contents of People, US Weekly and Life & Style (I, personally, experience heart palpitations if my US Weekly arrives a day or two late).

We watch Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight and Keeping Up with the Kardashians with guilty pleasure.

Brad Pitt at Beowulf London Premiere.

Brad Pitt at Beowulf London Premiere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brad Pitt sports three-day facial scruff, and soon men are shaving on a bi-weekly basis.  Victoria Beckham and Cameron Diaz are seen wear skinny jeans and women everywhere rush to buy them – that is, until Katie Holmes and Gwen Stefani show us that boyfriend jeans are now the fashionable trend.

Celebrity obsession certainly has a plethora of negative effects.  But can our celebrity obsession perhaps invoke others to volunteer when celebs are seen contributing to a worthy cause?

We’ve all seen the photos of Angelina Jolie volunteering for refugee organizations in developing countries.  The PSAs for UNICEF and the Red Cross with star-studded ensembles of supporters are abundant.  It is easy to skeptically dismiss their activism and support as a selfish career requirement, a bogus stunt motivated by self-serving PR goals.

President Barack Obama discusses the situation...

President Barack Obama discusses the situation in Sudan with actor George Clooney during a meeting outside the Oval Office, Oct. 12, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, many celebrities’ incentives are merely self-seeking publicity stunts, but I am sure just as many others are authentic motivations to make a difference.  Regardless of their motives, however, celebrity volunteerism and activism can further inspire others to volunteer and raise awareness about various issues.  As this post on a voluntourism blog points out, it isn’t necessarily the celebrity that inspires, as much as the focus that the celebrity can bring to a worthy cause.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, let’s look at just a few of the celebrity volunteers, activists, and philanthropists who, by capitalizing on the celebrity-obsessed culture we live in, are doing their part to improve the world and encouraging others to do their part as well.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08:  Michael J. Fox light...

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: Michael J. Fox lights the Empire State Building orange and white to raise awareness for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research at The Empire State Building on April 8, 2011 in New York City. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Celebrity Activists, Volunteers and Philanthropists

  1. Michael J. Fox – The Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Research Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through proactive and aggressive research and the quest for improved therapies.
  2. Brad Pitt has been a volunteer and spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity and helped to rebuild homes in New Orleans that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
  3. Katie Couric is a proponent of the importance of colon cancer screenings, and a contributor to various cancer research foundations. 
  4. George Clooney is an outspoken activist for the Sudanese people, calling for the end to genocide in Darfur.
  5. Mariska Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to help abuse survivors through both traditional and less-conventional methods of therapy, such as swimming with dolphins, hula, yoga, surf camps, writing workshops, and wellness retreats.
  6. Denzel Washington is a national spokesperson, and former alumnus, of Boys and Girls Club of America, which seeks to educate and empower young people to become responsible and respectful citizens.
  7. Bill and Melinda Gates – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to improve some of the world’s most challenging social issues, including extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries and America’s struggling education system.   Most recently, Melinda Gates has been an outspoken advocate for the importance of access to contraceptives.
  8. Oprah – Through several charitable organizations, including the Angel Network and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, Oprah is working to improve conditions in impoverished regions of the world by providing education, school supplies, and assistance to women and children.

MEYERTON, HENLEY ON KLIP - JANUARY 14: Oprah Winfrey poses with the Graduates at the inaugural graduation of the class of 2011 at Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls on January 14, 2012 in Henley on Klip, South Africa. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

We all have an obligation to give back to society, whether through volunteering our time or donating our money and resources.  As John F. Kennedy said (paraphrasing a Bible passage), “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

In last Friday’s post, I wrote about the significant time and emotional commitment that my parents have made to coaching and mentoring the youth of their community.  (If you haven’t already read the post, you really should.)  It is easy to be intimidated when we learn about the substantial sacrifices that some individuals are making with their time and money, but it is important to remember that every little bit counts.  Every. Little. Bit. 

Do what you can do – whether that means a half an hour, 10 hours, or 20 hours.

Give what you can give – whether it is a dollar, ten dollars or a thousand dollars.

There are volunteer opportunities and charities that fit with any time and budget constraint – you just have to find it. 

Some Helpful Links to Get You Started

My Favorite Charities
Volunteer Match
Hands On Network
Skills-based volunteering
Volunteer opportunities in your area
Volunteer time calculator
Chicago Cares

Do you know an awesome volunteer who is making a difference in your community?  What are the charities and volunteer programs that are close to your heart. Tell me about them. 

Today’s post is linked up with Monday Listicles, which had a theme of “how celebrities are like or unlike us.”  


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13 Responses to Do Celebrities Inspire Volunteerism?

  1. Stasha says:

    Love where this weeks topic took you! I agree, being charitable is important and a positive outcome will always out weight whatever personal motivation celebrity had for getting involved in the first place.
    As a European I have mixed emotions about charitable organizations. I have spoken out about it a few times on the blog. Regardless, we should all give back. if we observe our children it is obvious it comes naturally anyway.

    • Totally agree. Sometimes it is hard to not be overwhelmed and feel like we need to do these huge significant charitable acts, but if we just do what we can, little things can add up to big things.

  2. Ado says:

    What a great way to spin the celebrity post into one for good. I had no idea it was natl. volunteer week. (-:

  3. What a great list! I love hearing when celebrity do good, actually DO GOOD for others!

  4. Yoli says:

    I love celeb activist! I think it’s everyones duty to give back in someway. This is a great list of great people, good job!

  5. This is such an awsome list! I love finding people who can raise awareness and inspire people to act for good, celeb or not but of course when they do it, it can reach so many more. You are so right – every little bit counts, we can all do something to help in the world, even if it’s just helping others be more aware. Awesome list!

    • Thank you! I constantly struggle with feeling like I’m not doing enough, but I’m trying to do what I can given that I have two young kids and a husband who has to be away for work a lot. Inspiration and giving back can come in many forms. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  6. paul says:

    This is my favourite list this week, thank you for posting it. Every little bit helps, you are so right.

  7. Eric says:

    Nice thoughts – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a significant contributor to GAVI to vaccinate children in Africa against Rotavirus.

  8. Karen says:

    What a neat list!! And your blog post is awesome, definitely A-blogger quality in my book! 🙂

  9. Pingback: New Post at Urban Times: “Buy Locally, Sustain Globally” | Random Reflectionz

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