“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali
Giving back to your community is an important way of expressing humility, kindness, love, and gratitude for all that you’ve been given in your life. Many celebrities who collect big paychecks also give back in a big way.
Here are 10 celebrities who are leading by example, helping communities nationally and internationally:
1. Mary J. Blige
An international R&B superstar, Blige is also an advocate for women. She co-founded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN). She also opened the Mary J. Blige Center for Women in Yonkers, New York, and became a mentor at an all-girls public high school in the Bronx, New York, where is also providing college scholarships to the students there.
2. Brad Pitt (and partner Angelina Jolie)
Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt is known for starring in over 30 movies and for having lots of kids, but he is also a philanthropist. Using his knowledge and interest in architecture, Pitt started the Make It Right Foundation, a nonprofit organization that builds green, affordable housing in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. In 2006 alone, he and his partner Angelina Jolie donated more than $8 million to charity.
3. Jennifer Lopez (and husband Marc Anthony)
Triple threat singer/actress/dancer Jennifer Lopez has a long history of giving back. Lopez teamed up with Amnesty International to launch a website that raised awareness about 350 young women who had been killed in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua since 1993. She is an avid supporter of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and was presented with the Children’s Humanitarian Award in 2004. She and husband Marc Anthony made a large donation to the Children’s Health Fund’s Operation Assist after Hurricane Katrina. Then in 2010, she joined Denzel Washington as the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club, becoming their first female spokesperson.
4. Denzel Washington (and wife Pauletta Wahington)
In addition to being the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club with Jennifer Lopez, Academy Award-winning Denzel Washington also makes giving a family affair with the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience. He has also donated $1 million to the historically black college, Wiley College.
5. Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson has starred in films like He Got Game, Sin City, and Men In Black II. When she’s not working, she gives her time to many philanthropic campaigns. She founded the organization Voto Latino and is a spokesperson for the Lower East Side Girls Club. She has also worked with Oxfam, Amnesty International, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and she hosted a concert event in support of Global Darfur Awareness Day, with the proceeds going to the International Rescue Committee.
6. Ludacris (and friends Chaka Zulu and William Engram)
Hip hop star/actor Ludacris started his foundation in 2001, with the help of his friend Chaka Zulu and William Engram. Their foundation has donated $500,000 to grassroots organization that help youth, uplift families, and foster economic development in the community.
7. Alonzo Mourning (and wife Tracy Mourning)
Former NBA star Alonzo Mourning and his wife Tracy founded the Alonzo Mourning Charities, which donated over $7 million to non-profits that serve at-risk children and youth, as well as the Overtown Youth Center for underprivileged youth. Tracy Mourning started the Honey Shine Mentoring Program for girls, and the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High Biscayne Bay Campus was named after the philanthropic couple.
8. Edward Norton
Actor Edward Norton recently launched the website Crowdrise, which is a free, online way for people to create their own fundraising pages. Fundraising pages are shared through social networks, and you can win point and prizes as you give back. Norton came up with the idea for Crowdrise after the using Twitter when he raised $1.2 million by running the New York Marathon for his long-term cause, the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust.
9. Chris Rock (and wife Malaak Compton-Rock)
Actor/writer/director/ comedian Chris Rock has been a quiet donor to his local Salvation Army for many, many years. His wife Malaak Compton-Rock created the organization the Angel Rock Project, and its program Journey for Change empowers youth through global service. She also wrote the book If It Takes a Village, Build One about over 100 ways to live a life of service.
The R&B star Usher started the New Look Foundation, which provides career development, service opportunities, mentorship, and grants for youth-led programs. He also created the projects Camp New Look Leadership Academy, Moguls in Training program, and Powered By Service, which is an initiative that gets young people involved in changing their communities.
Bonus Celeb: No list of community-minded celebrities would be complete without mentioning Oprah! Not only is she the first female African-American billionaire, but she sponsors charitable initiatives worldwide with Oprah’s Angel Network and also started the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Africa. She has championed many other campaigns – from promoting literacy to speaking out against child abuse.
It’s important to note that there are many people who devote their lives to their communities, who don’t have the resources or prestige of the celebrities on this list. Please share your stories of everyday community heroes with us!