Celebrities Find Home for Contributions in 'Pop Charities'

Until now, entertainment industry charities haven't dabbled much in the politics of helping the hungry and/or homeless. But show business has been actively involved in raising money.

Here's a Thanksgiving update of some of the better known so-called "pop charities":

--United Support of Artists For Africa Foundation, founded by Harry Belafonte and Ken Kragan, Kenny Rogers' manager, in 1985 to distribute goods primarily to African famine victims.

In May, 1986, the organization staged Hands Across America: a coast-to-coast "human chain" linking 5.6 million Americans who pledged contributions to aid the hungry and homeless. Among the hundreds of celebrities who participated were Bill Cosby, Jane Fonda, Tina Turner, Olivia Newton-John and Lily Tomlin.

After meeting $17 million in Hands expenses, the organization has distributed $12 million in contributions to 1,700 agencies that aid the homeless and hungry. USA for Africa information officer Joyce Deep said the organization will announce another $3.2 million in grants soon.

No future projects have been planned.

--Comic Relief Inc., a nonprofit organization founded by comedy writer Bob Zmuda, held its second annual Comic Relief '87 benefit on Nov. 14. The show aired on Home Box Office as a telethon and was provided free to nonsubscribing cable-TV households.

Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Allen and Dudley Moore were among the 50 comedians participating.

More than $3 million was pledged--about $750,000 more than last year's pledges, said Comic Relief executive director Dennis Albaugh. Proceeds from the benefit and viewers' call-in pledges are to be distributed to health care programs for the homeless in 23 cities.

--The Hunger Project, a San Francisco-based organization that claims to have more than 5.5 million members in 152 countries committed to end hunger by the end of the 20th Century, hosted a live, worldwide satellite program "The End of Hunger--A New Era" on Nov. 14.

Edward Asner, Cloris Leachman, Jeff Bridges, John Ritter and Kenny Loggins were among the celebrities who lent their names to the event. Though tickets to the program were $20 a piece, the chief purpose was to educate people about the problem of hunger, according to public information officer Betty Granoff.

She said no tally of earnings from the event are currently available.

--LIFE (Love Is Feeding Everyone), a food recovery and distribution program started four years ago by Valerie Harper and Dennis Weaver, serves 70 community agencies including senior citizen homes, shelters, churches and half-way houses in Los Angeles.

LIFE raises money from pledge drives, 10-kilometer runs and food fairs. The organization supplies food to 30,000 people each week, said executive director Kitty Franklin.

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