The giving Back Awards: 15 People Who Make America Great

Benita Singh and Ruth Degolia
Mercado Global

Their company will raise $600,000 this year to send Guatemalan kids to school.

Benita Singh and Ruth DeGolia were still undergraduates in the summer of 2003 when they found their destiny in the village of San Alfonso, on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Singh and DeGolia, international-studies majors at Yale, were working on their senior theses when they visited the village, which was filled with women who had fled Guatemala during that country's brutal civil war in the 1980s. After two years in refugee camps in Mexico, the women, many of them widowed by the fighting, had been repatriated here, where there was no work and no market for the exquisite woven and beaded handicrafts they produced. "There are only so many tourists, and each one can only buy so much," says DeGolia ruefully. But the women weren't beggars; it was, says Singh, "the first time I'd ever walked into an impoverished [Third World] community where people weren't asking me for money."

So the two young women filled their suitcases with beaded bags and necklaces and took them back to Yale that fall, where they quickly sold out at a 300 percent markup. By Christmas they were back in Guatemala, laying the groundwork for a nonprofit they named Mercado ("market") Global, which seeks to bring the benefits of globalization to poor communities that until now have seen only the downside, in the collapse of prices for their locally grown crops. With a start-up grant from Echoing Green, a "social entrepreneurship" foundation, Singh and DeGolia organized 15 to 18 cooperatives in villages so remote that many inhabitants don't even speak Spanish, let alone English. The members produce textiles on backstrap looms, hand-painted ceramics and jewelry for the export market. They grossed about $75,000 last year in retail, online and catalog sales; this year, their second, Singh and DeGolia project sales of $600,000, and they are in talks with a major chain about carrying their hand-painted coffee mugs. The money will be used to fund scholarships for children whose parents could not afford the $50 or $60 it costs to send a child to elementary school in rural Guatemala. This year they're sending a computer to each of the cooperatives so the women can keep their books (although only a few can read or write). "We have a very special place in our heart," says Lara Galinsky, a vice president of Echoing Green, "for young people with the audacity, the vision and the energy to see things through." Even in places like San Alfonso.

Pierre Omidyar
Henderson, Nev.

He's using his $10 billion fortune to help people 'tap into their own power.'

Pierre Omidyar invented the online auction site that became eBay as a lark. But when his whim became a business that made Omidyar a billionaire, sudden wealth brought with it an overwhelming responsibility. "There was this sense of 'Oh boy, what do we do to make sure that this wealth doesn't get wasted?' " he says. "We've got to put it to good use."

Now 39, Omidyar has devoted himself full time to the challenge of "responsibly investing" one of the dot-com era's largest fortunes, around $10 billion. He left eBay five years ago and abandoned Silicon Valley for a quieter life in Nevada, where he and his wife, Pam, started a family foundation. In 2004, they converted it into the Omidyar Network--a philanthropic venture-capital fund that, unlike traditional charities, can invest in profitmaking businesses as well as nonprofits. The recipients, says Omidyar, are chosen because they "help people tap into their own power."

That philosophy has put Omidyar on the cutting edge of foundation work and created an eclectic portfolio of good works. In the past two years, the Omidyar Network has committed (he shuns the term "donation") nearly $80 million to several dozen organizations. About half went to profitmaking ventures that create what Omidyar calls "deep social benefit." One is InnoCentive, a collaborative research community that allows pharmaceutical companies to post challenges to scientists around the world; another is World of Good, which imports the work of artisans in developing countries for sale by U.S. retailers.

The rest goes to nonprofits such as KaBOOM!, which organizes communities to build their own playgrounds, and Modest Needs, a group that channels small amounts of money to help poor working families who've been hit by unexpected expenses. Recipients of the gifts often become donors when they are back on their feet. Omidyar says his philanthropic approach is motivated by the lessons of eBay, which helped millions of ordinary people become entrepreneurs. The stories that move Omidyar inevitably involve ordinary people discovering their own power: a grandmother who talked a local store into feeding volunteers who built a playground in her housing project; a mother in the Dominican Republic who used a $68 loan to open a fruit stand and cleared enough in profit to send her children to school.

Omidyar's greatest passion is microfinance, the practice of making loans as small as $40 to entrepreneurs in developing countries. "It's not about alleviating poverty through charity," he says. "It's about giving someone the tools they need to make their own life successful, actually trusting them with something they might not have been allowed to touch before, which is money." He has given millions to the Grameen Bank, a leading private microfinance lender. And last year he and Pam gave $100 million to Tufts University, their alma mater, to establish a microfinance investment fund. Omidyar hopes this project will prove to other institutional investors that microfinance is a smart way to earn high returns. And these are small-scale tools available to everyone, not just dot-com billionaires. "Business can be a force for good," he says. "You can make the world a better place and make money at the same time." It's a lesson Omidyar has learned well--and one he wants to share.

Randy Rusk
Wet Mountain Valley, Colo.

A conservative rancher stands up for his land by forging an unlikely alliance.

It wasn't too long ago that Randy Rusk considered "environmentalist" a dirty word. Like many of his fellow ranchers in Colorado's Wet Mountain Valley, a high prairie in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Rusk resented outsiders' telling him how to manage his land. But as he watched one ranch after another--land that was once the domain of cattle and elk--disappear into housing developments, he had a change of heart. In 2002, Rusk teamed up with the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit, and set up a conservation easement on his family's 1,500-acre spread. He sold his land's development rights to the TPL for less than half its $4 million market value. What's in it for him? He can count on the trust and its local partners to keep the property intact forever, ensuring that his grandkids can continue to ranch. "It's hard to walk away from half of your net worth," says Rusk, "and it sure didn't make me real popular around here at first. But if you love the land, you want to keep it whole."

Once Rusk made his deal, saving the range became a personal crusade. In the years since, he's persuaded other area ranchers to make similar arrangements. The concept has become so popular that some landowners are simply donating the easements, allowing the land trusts to use their cash to buy up more acreage in the Wet Mountain Valley. "Randy was able to show people around here why it makes sense," says Doug Robotham of the Trust for Public Land. "He's the validator in this community." By 2007, more than 11,000 acres of Wet Mountain Valley land will be protected from subdivision. "People are starting to realize that open space is valuable--no matter what developers think," says Rusk. With his help, it's becoming priceless.

Brad Pitt
Los Angeles

He lured the paparazzi to Africa, where people really needed the attention.

If it wasn't for Brad Pitt, most Americans would never have heard of Namibia. They might not know about AIDS orphans in South Africa, or the plight of children in Haiti, or what transpired at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Pitt, 42, has been a movie star for 15 years--and a paparazzi target for nearly as long. Celebrity mags have made millions reporting on his love life, and the obsession only intensified when he began romancing Angelina Jolie. So he started fighting back--but not by punching photographers. If paparazzi were going to follow the couple everywhere, Pitt figured they might as well drag them somewhere that desperately needed the world's attention. "It's the first time I've actually felt like we have some degree of control over it," says Pitt, from his home in Malibu. "I can't describe what an immense relief it is for me." The splashiest example of his new strategy unfolded just last month. He and Jolie, who, perhaps you've heard, recently gave birth to their daughter Shiloh Nouvel in Namibia, sold the coveted first baby photos to People magazine for a reported $4 million--and gave all the money to African charities. "Knowing that someone was going to hound us for that first photo--and was going to profit immensely for doing it--I just couldn't live with it," Pitt says. "We were able to turn that around and collect millions for people who are really going to need it."

If Pitt was simply using his star power to force the celebrity press to cover poverty and disease, that would be enough--heck, it's far more than most celebrities do. But Pitt has also been studying trade issues, diving into why much of Africa is so impoverished and how it can be turned

around. "Industrialized nations cost Africa three times what we give it in aid," he says. "We buy their coffee beans, but we don't let them process the beans, which is where the real money is. So what we're doing is digging a hole for them that they can't get out of, and then throwing a little money in the hole. The odds are just stacked against them."

Fatherhood, he says, helped accelerate his activism. Not long before Shiloh was born, Pitt adopted Jolie's son, Maddox, whom she originally adopted from Cambodia, and her daughter Zahara, whom she adopted last summer from Ethiopia. "I look at [Zahara] and imagine what her life could have been," he says. "You want to grab as many of these kids in your arms as you can. They need our help, and we should be doing more."

He's doing more in America, too. A longtime student of architecture and an advocate of "green" design, Pitt saw an opportunity after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild New Orleans in an innovative way. Joining forces with Global Green USA, an environmental advocacy group, Pitt put up $100,000 to help sponsor an architecture competition that requires contestants to create affordable, multifamily housing for the city that is ecofriendly and community focused. Global Green has already received more than 3,000 submissions. "We can't just consume ourselves into extinction," he says. "We have to find a new paradigm, a new way of thinking. Of course, the ultimate goal is to get the designs built. It's a bit of a quagmire down there now, so I see myself getting even more involved in the future."

First, he has to be free to leave the house. Since returning from Africa, the Jolie-Pitt clan has been swarmed by paparazzi. "They're outside the house right now, at least 40 of them," Pitt says, as a baby's cry fills the background. "There are two boats out in the water, and there's an occasional chopper that goes by." Indeed, the sound of a helicopter propeller is so loud at times during NEWSWEEK's interview that Pitt can't hear the questions. "It's madness," he says. But he doesn't sound annoyed. Far from it: he sounds like any other blissed-out new dad. "Do you have kids? It's absolutely sublime." You can virtually hear him smile over the phone. "Whether you have them or adopt them, they're all blood. And the funniest people I've ever met." Pretty soon, it'll be their generation's world. "I've had the luxury of being able to see these issues firsthand," he says. "If I don't share that, I'm complicit in the problem." Instead, he's making sure he's part of the solution.

Aaron Dworkin

A violinist whose life is introducing the music he loves to inner-city children

Growing up in rural Hershey, Pa., Aaron Dworkin was something of a double oddity: a black kid with a violin in his hand. There was only one other black family in town, and they looked nothing like Dworkin's household. He was adopted and raised by Jewish parents. His birthmother is Irish Catholic; his father is black. Diversity is literally in his blood. So picking up a violin at the age of 5 was just one more thing that made him different. It wasn't until college, though, that he realized how special it made him. At the University of Michigan, a music professor introduced him to the work of African-American composer William Grant Still. "I was overwhelmed," says Dworkin, 35. "No one ever told me this music existed. It would enrich so many people in the minority community. I thought, Why aren't they hearing it, too?"

Suddenly, Dworkin's mission in life emerged: diversifying America's symphonies--and their musical repertoires. "You can't complain about something," he says, "unless you're doing something about it." So in 1996 he founded the Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based nonprofit aimed at drawing young black and Latino kids into the world of classical music. From a shoestring start, Sphinx now has a yearly budget of $2 million. It has helped about 45,000 students in 100 schools and awarded $800,000 in scholarships. Two years ago kids from Sphinx played Carnegie Hall. Last year Dworkin won a "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

With the help of an eight-person staff, Dworkin runs a weekend camp for urban kids, teaching them music theory, history and basic instruction on a variety of instruments. Sphinx also pays for 40 exceptional young musicians to attend an intensive music camp in New England. "Playing an instrument improves test scores and teaches discipline," Dworkin notes. The organization's signature creation is its annual string competition. Winners can earn up to $10,000, tour the country, perform with the New York Philharmonic and get airtime on PBS and NPR. Alumni of the competition have landed jobs at big-city orchestras. From the roughest parts of Detroit to center stage at Lincoln Center--it seems hard to imagine. Says Dworkin, "Even what I was envisioning back then is not what it's become." That's because he didn't settle for envisioning his dream. He made it reality.

Rick Warren
Saddleback Church

Mobilizing Christians worldwide to heal the sick and feed the hungry

It starts as an ordinary success story. Rick Warren, a Baptist boy from California, dreams of being a pastor like his dad. He goes to seminary and starts a church. He begs and borrows, he preaches in living rooms. He builds a congregation--Saddleback Church, in Lake Forest, Calif.-- from nothing in 1980 to 20,000 members.

Then, something really extraordinary happens. Warren describes it as a rocket-ship ride. In 2002, he published a book that began with the words "It's not about you." The message was simple: by serving others, you serve God. Since its publication, "The Purpose Driven Life" has sold 30 million copies in English, making it by some accounts the best-selling hardcover ever. It is a phenomenon, a movement. It has given Warren access to world leaders at Davos, to corporate chiefs and rock stars. It has generated "tens of millions of dollars," Warren says--enough for him to pay his own salary back to his church, retroactively, for the past 25 years, enough to launch three foundations. "PDL" allows Warren to "reverse tithe": he gives away 90 percent of what he earns.

Now things get exciting. Another pastor might be content to diversify into "PDL" DVDs and gift books, but Warren is more ambitious. If "2.3 billion people in the world claim to be followers of Jesus," then why not take the next step and mobilize those people to do important things, like stop poverty, improve literacy, feed the hungry, heal the sick? Conventional relief organizations are fine, but why not tap what Warren calls "the faith sector," the armies of motivated religious volunteers who are sick and tired of polarizing rhetoric and professional crusaders? "The old paradigm was, 'You pay, you pray, you get out of the way'," he explains, but in today's global and wired world, troops of caring volunteers can be deployed to communities in need with the push of a button. Such was the case on Christmas 2004, when Warren, awake and online at 4:30 a.m., received news of a massive underwater earthquake via e-mail from a pastor in Sri Lanka. Warren, who has an e-mail list of 200,000 pastors worldwide, notified churches in Thailand and Indonesia, that immediately mobilized volunteers to tsunami disaster sites. "It's universal distribution," he says, excitedly. "There's a church in every village in the world ... the potential sits there like a sleeping giant."

As always, his own church is his R&D department. Earlier this year he launched a plan called "PEACE," in which small groups of church members choose a remote village that needs help, travel there, provide aid (water sterilization? mosquito nets?), make sure the leaders can replicate it, and then leave. Already, more than 6,000 Saddleback members have made such pilgrimages, and soon PEACE training materials will be available online for any interested church group. Says Warren: "Reformations always start with the peasants; they don't start with the elites." Any good pastor can see the potential in one soul; it takes a maverick to see those souls as instruments of God's work all over the world.

Ruby Jones
New Orleans

As Katrina raged, this nurse whispered comfort to her dying patients.

Ruby Jones's kids were aghast at their mother's decision. As Hurricane Katrina churned menacingly toward New Orleans last August, they had begged her to forsake her Sunday nursing shift at Lindy Boggs Medical Center and evacuate the city. "Don't try to be Superwoman," they told her. But Jones, 67, chose to ride out the storm with her eight frail and dying patients in the hospice unit. "I didn't want to shirk my responsibility knowing there was a hurricane coming," she says. On Monday, as raging winds shattered the hospital's windows and burst open doors, she gently whispered in her patients' ears, "We are here with you, and we aren't going to leave." By Tuesday, the situation had turned dire; the power was out, the water supply was choked off and the hospital was flooding. Still, amid the mounting mayhem, Jones continued to tend to her flock--bathing them, feeding them, dressing their wounds. When aid arrived on Wednesday, she helped evacuate them, though three died before they could be rescued. She finally left on Thursday, hungry and parched, but having kept her promise to stay at her patients' side until the very end.

At once steely and soothing, with a tight bun of silvery hair and impeccably pressed scrubs, Jones was a tireless source of succor for the storm's most vulnerable victims. She doesn't consider her work especially commendable; quite simply, she says, it was her job--one she has carried out with boundless compassion for 45 years. Yet Jones was a model of caregiving at a time when some health-care workers abandoned their posts and others cracked under pressure. To those who observed Jones during Katrina's cha-otic aftermath, she seemed to exude only calm purposefulness. "No matter how austere the conditions became, she was still on the situation to make sure things were done right," recalls orderly Don Cilurso. "If something wasn't up to her standards, she would point it out even though it was getting harder and harder to maintain that standard of care."

When Jones arrived with other evacuees at the New Orleans airport, she picked up where she'd left off. Rather than join the throngs desperate to catch flights out of the city, she went looking for her patients. The scene was anarchic--a dark, stifling cavern packed with an agitated crowd and reverberating with shouts and moans. Jones eventually found two of her patients lying listlessly among the luggage carousels and began caring for them with what little food and cleaning supplies she could scrounge up. She also ran into her aunt and uncle--both of whom were ill--and tended to them as well. With the military's triage operation overwhelmed, she soon took on even more of the infirm. Though she'd asked authorities to be evacuated with her hospice patients, she eventually became separated from them. So at the end of the week, she departed with her aunt and uncle for Atlanta, where she continued to care for her uncle until he died several weeks later.

Jones traces her devotion to nursing back to her upbringing in rural Louisiana. A sickly child, she often ended up in the hospital. Because of the care she received there, she found it a comforting place. After high school, she attended Dillard University in New Orleans. Upon graduating, she got married and slowly pursued her nursing license while also starting a family. When she was in nursing school, she practiced her clinical procedures on her beloved grandfather, who was diabetic. No matter how painfully she poked and prodded him, "he would compliment me to the highest," says Jones. "He called me 'nurse' from the first day." His confidence made her believe in herself.

Jones has also been nourished by faith. During the most harrowing moments of Katrina's aftermath, she often recited Scripture in her head for guidance and strength. Among the historical figures she most admires: Mother Teresa, whose care for the wretched inspired her profoundly. These days, Jones is tending to her ailing 93-year-old father. She's staying next to him in the other half of the home where she lived as a girl (her own house was severely flooded after the hurricane). Though Lindy Boggs Medical Center hasn't reopened, she's still working on Sundays for the same hospice-care company. Given the city's heartbreaking state, Jones wonders how long she can endure living there and is considering moving at some point to Atlanta. But she would undoubtedly have a hard time leaving her patients behind. "We are like a family at the end," she says. "You don't just abandon them." Those Katrina survivors on whom she laid her healing hands are surely grateful that she upheld that credo.

Soledad O'Brien

In a drowning city, who spoke out for those in despair? She did.

Soledad O'Brien's daughter, Sophia, was nervous. As O'Brien, the anchor of CNN's "American Morning," packed her "go bag" for New Orleans where she would cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 4-year-old Sophia, who'd been watching coverage of the storm for several days, feared her mom was putting herself in danger. "They don't have any water down there," Sophia protested. "CNN has water," O'Brien assured her. "What if you meet someone who doesn't have any water?" Sophia wanted to know. "Well," said her mother, "then you share."

Simple, human kindness--the kind you can teach a child--was embarrassingly absent in the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. As the country watched in horror as state and federal officials did little to help the stranded multitudes, television anchors, who so often act as though they're not of this world, for once understood the outrage. As the days wore on and the city continued to flounder, they articulated our astonishment at the vast incompetence we all witnessed.

No anchor's transformation was more impressive than O'Brien's. With her calm voice and soft beauty, she is a perfect fit for easygoing morning TV. But, like that of her CNN colleague Anderson Cooper, O'Brien's reporting in the aftermath of Katrina displayed an inner rage that was surprising to viewers, and entirely appropriate for the occasion. Four days after the storm, O'Brien was the first to truly nail the haplessness of FEMA Director Michael Brown, asking: "How is it possible we have better intel than you?"

Off camera, O'Brien single-mindedly tried to tell the truth, and tell as much of it as she possibly could. After anchoring her broadcast in the morning she would set off into areas where CNN wasn't able to transport a signal, filing reports throughout the day by satellite phone. "We were tripping over stories," she recalls. "We would shoot stories on our way to shooting other stories, there was just so much that needed to be told."

Ten months after the storm, O'Brien says Katrina has changed her perspective. "When something happens, say your kid has a temper tantrum, you say, 'OK, this doesn't rise to the level of disaster.' Nothing is going to upset me in my personal life." But get her started on the people still living in trailers and the noise she still hears from FEMA and the chances of another bad hurricane this summer--well, let's just say she's still got her go bag fully packed.

Boys & Girls Clubs

On its 100th birthday, this group stays relevant by caring for new groups of poor kids.

Two words: changing lives. That's the essential mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which celebrates its centennial this year. The vast majority of youngsters served by the organization's 3,935 clubs come from disadvantaged communities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. "We want to enable them to become all they are capable of being: productive, responsible, caring citizens," says President Roxanne Spillett. She presides over a federation of local clubs, with national headquarters in Atlanta providing programming, marketing and operating standards. While many old-line charities have been suffering in the age of entrepreneurial philanthropy, Boys & Girls Clubs pushes forward by moving into new areas like public housing (where there are now 432 clubs), Native American communities (157 clubs) and military bases in the United States and Europe (432 clubs). "They reach young people everywhere," says Frances Hesselbein of the Leader to Leader Institute, a former CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "They're one of the most outstanding and successful social-sector organizations in the country."


When it comes to giving time, talent and cash, this stylish retailer hits the bull's-eye.

It's Connect 4 night at Target House in Memphis, and chaos reigns in the cafeteria. Squealing kids crowd around dinner tables in a pitched battle to slide red and blue discs into yellow grids. If there weren't so many little bald heads and surgical masks, you'd never know you were in a room full of seriously sick patients from St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Just outside the din of the dining hall, 11-year-old Camilla Stull swings quietly on a wooden bench and talks of becoming a movie star. "I want to be an actress like Drew Barrymore," she says, attired artistically in a tangerine top and white knit cap over her hairless head. "I'm a true Cali girl." Her mom, Rema Sadak, looks on, smiling at the child's optimism. It just might be the best medicine for a family uprooted from their California home to seek treatment at St. Jude's for Camilla's rare form of leukemia. Since early last year, they've called Target House home, thanks to the good will of the Minneapolis retailer. "If it weren't for this place," says Sadak, "we would be bankrupt."

When you think of Target, comforting children with cancer is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. More likely, you think "Tar-jaay," the cheap-chic big-box store with hip deIs like Isaac Mizrahi and those funky blue toasters by architect Michael Graves. But for Target, helping the needy is as important to its corporate character as its class-meets-mass marketing philosophy. And charity begins at the checkout, where you could, say, apply for a grant for your local arts council or contribute to your kids' school by using a Target charge card. In an era when corporate giving can be reduced to an exercise in PR, Target's devotion to donation stands out. In good years and bad, Target donates 5 percent of its pretax profits--more than twice the average of corporate America. That equals about $2 million a week, or $101 million last year. "Other companies wonder how Target does it," says Ian Wilhelm, who covers corporate giving for the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "They ask me to ask them how they get that much money out the door."

But Target's good deeds do not stop at giving cash. It built Target House in 1999 to offer free long-term housing to St. Jude's patients and their families. Last year Target employees and retirees volunteered more than 315,000 hours to more than 7,000 community projects like reading to schoolkids. Target is also among the first on the scene when disaster strikes. During Hurricane Katrina, it turned over a Baton Rouge store to the Red Cross to use as its command center. Even when it's doing good, though, Target never loses its sense of style. Besides contributing $5 million to help restore the Washington Monument, Target also deployed Michael Graves to design a fashionable blue wrap to shroud the spire while it was spiffed up. "What sets them apart," says Wilhelm, "is that they're not just providing funds, but also their expertise."

What does Target get out of all this? "Hopefully," says CEO Bob Ulrich, "having this positive halo of doing good things in the community will make [shoppers] tip in our favor." Plenty are tipping: Target earned $2.4 billion last year on $53 billion in sales. To make sure that its charity continues to generate good will, Target surveys its customers on where it should spread its largesse. That's why Target, ahem, targets causes like education, arts and social services that are close to the hearts of the 35- to 45-year-old moms who shop at its 1,418 stores. And unlike companies that discovered "cause marketing" just to fatten the bottom line, Target's been at this since before its first store opened in 1962. Sixty years ago Target's founder, George Dayton, began donating 5 percent of pretax profits from his Dayton's department stores in Minneapolis. Today Dayton's department stores are history, but the 5 percent tradition lives on. "This isn't the cause of the moment," says Laysha Ward, Target's VP of community relations. "It's part of who we are."

Target doesn't always wait for the needy to go to it. Just ask Betty Mohlenbrock, who took a surprise call from Target last year. It wanted to know how it could help her program, United Through Reading, which videotapes deployed military personnel reading children's books to their families back home. "Target just went searching on the Internet and discovered us," marvels Mohlenbrock. Soon Target cut a $200,000 check that allowed the program to expand beyond the Navy and Marines to serve all military branches. This year Mohlenbrock expects to connect 50,000 military families with bedtime-book videos. Kim Morton will never forget the first time her family watched the video of her husband, Craig, reading from his troop carrier in the Persian Gulf. "It was so good to hear his voice in the house," she says. "My 3-year-old ran up to the TV shouting 'Hi, Daddy, hi, Daddy,' and the tears were running down my face."

But when someone calls with an urgent need, Target doesn't hesitate. Last year CBS exec Martin Franks was desperate to line up funding to produce the "Shelter From the Storm" all-star telethon that aired 12 days after Katrina. His first call was to Target, hoping for one third of the show's $1.5 million in costs. "Ninety minutes later," says Franks, "they call back and say, 'We'll do the whole thing'." That donation allowed him to set up more phone banks for donors, which he believes added $10 million to the show's $32 million take.

Even controversy can be turned into a charitable moment at Target. Two years ago Target suffered boycott threats when it banished Salvation Army bell ringers, citing a policy of not allowing solicitors. The move cost the Salvation Army $9 million, but Target promised to make up for it. Then last fall Target came up with an idea for an online "Wish List" to enable its shoppers to donate goods for Katrina victims to the Salvation Army. The result: thousands of toys, clothes and household items were given to needy families during the holidays. "Two years ago our relationship was strained," says the Salvation Army's Maj. George Hood. "But when Katrina came along, they knocked on our door." It's a knock that charities have come to know and welcome.

John Read
Outward Bound

His wallet took a hit when he left the private sector to run an ailing nonprofit.

In 1992 John Read was a manufacturing executive locked in a race to become CEO when he took an Outward Bound trip with his oldest son, with whom he had a strained relationship. Rock climbing together transformed their bond, so over the next few years Read took expeditions with his two other kids. Impressed by the impact of Outward Bound on his family, he joined the board of its North Carolina affiliate. By 2001 he'd successfully launched a private equity fund, but when 9/11's impact on the markets delayed his plans to launch a second, Read, a Harvard Business School graduate, became Outward Bound's interim CEO. After three months he was hooked--not just by the organization's mission but by the sense that his business skills could help it operate more effectively. In April 2002 he left his lucrative private-sector life behind for good.

Since then he's faced steep obstacles. Founded in 1941 to help British sailors survive Nazi submarine attacks, Outward Bound has expanded well beyond that past; today its U.S. arm operates 144 schools, trains corporate executives and works with at-risk youth. But its wilderness expeditions--carefully planned sequences of physical challenges, team building and reflection--remain its core, and since 1991 enrollment has been cut in half, to about 5,000 last year. The reasons? More competition, poor marketing and the popularity of what Read, 59, calls "flute camp/soccer camp/go-to-Europe."

To spark a turnaround, last year Read merged seven of the 10 regional Outward Bound chapters into one stronger, centralized organization. He has hired a Yale researcher to measure exactly how Outward Bound turns young adults into more confident leaders and students. And he's improved marketing, creating a growing database of alumni to boost referrals. So far this year, enrollment is up 13 percent. And Read is betting that climb is just getting started.

Nancy Cox
Centers for Disease Control

She's been a flu researcher her whole life. The stakes are about to get higher.

Nancy Cox was 9 years old when she had her first run-in with the influenza virus. It was 1957, and the so-called Asian flu was making the rounds of her Iowa hometown. Cox, her four siblings and her mother all got sick. "I recall being very ill and having very strange bodily sensations [from the high fever]," Cox says. That year the flu killed some 70,000 Americans. Cox's family recovered, but Nancy had caught an influenza bug of her own. She went on to study bacteriology at Iowa State, then headed to Cambridge University in England, where she earned a Ph.D. in virology. Cox was fascinated by what she calls the "changing nature of the beast," the way flu viruses adapt and jump from animals to humans. In 1976 she landed a fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, figuring she'd return to academia after a few years. But she got hooked on public health. "I wanted to be sure that the work I did was having an impact on people's lives," she says.

Now 57, Cox has devoted her entire career to battling flu for the CDC--where she heads the influenza branch--and the World Health Organization. From inside the bureaucracy, Cox has already saved thousands of lives. Twice a year she identifies strains of virus to be used in the latest flu vaccine. It's an arduous process that never earns her much credit. "There is nobody who puts in such time and attention to making sure things are done right," says Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the WHO. Now facing the possibility of a global avian-flu pandemic, Cox is at work on every front: researching vaccines and devising systems for tracking an outbreak in the United States so that antivirals and protective gear can get where they're needed. "She has worked to mobilize America's government to prevent and prepare for a disaster," says Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, which has selected Cox as a finalist for its Service to America Medals, honoring extraordinary achievement among government workers.

Together with her CDC team, Cox developed a nasal-swab test for infection with the H5N1 virus, which causes avian flu. Working with colleagues outside the CDC, Cox's team reconstructed the flu virus that killed tens of millions of people in 1918, hoping to learn what made it so deadly. Her team conducted another bold experiment: combining the current H5N1 virus with a contagious human-flu virus (in her ultrasecure lab). "What we're trying to determine is whether or not the avian-flu virus gene and the human-influenza gene can work together," Cox says. If they do, it's a potentially deadly combination. But at least the world will have someone like Cox working on our side.

Timothy Hernandez
Queen Creek, Ariz.

He won medals in combat, and now he's handling a crisis on the home front.

Ten years ago, Timothy Hernandez seemed destined to wind up in prison just like his older brother. But when Hernandez became a father, he joined the Army instead. "I'd always heard that the Army would change your life and make you a better person," he says.

Now Hernandez is the one changing lives. After 9/11 he headed to Iraq as the gunner aboard a Bradley fighting vehicle. Riding along at the end of a long convoy in June 2003, Hernandez heard an explosion rip through the desert. A roadside bomb had hit a trailer far ahead; when Hernandez arrived on the scene, insurgents opened fire. For the next hour, Hernandez pulled injured soldiers from the wreckage as grenades and AK-47 fire flew all around. He dodged bullets to aid comrades who'd been separated from the convoy, and again to rescue maps and other sensitive materials from the burning vehicles. Hernandez didn't emerge unscathed--he suffered shrapnel wounds in the knee, foot, hip and lower back, and earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a promotion for his efforts. A few months later he was wounded again, this time in the forehead, eye and cheek. Many soldiers would have called it quits; Hernandez won another Purple Heart--and re-enlisted.

But shortly after he returned to Fort Polk, La., to begin retraining, he began to have shooting pains all over his body and, not content to sit behind a desk, applied for a medical discharge. It was then that his family life began to crumble. Both of his parents, who'd been caring for his imprisoned brother's children, died within weeks of each other--and Hernandez came face to face with the realization that his first act as a civilian would be for his family (his wife and their four kids) to embrace his nieces and nephews as his own. "I made an oath to go back and help them out," says Hernandez, who recently arrived home at Queen Creek, Ariz. Army Spec. Edgar Fuentes, who trained under Hernandez, thinks his sergeant is up to the job. "When he says he's going to get something done missionwise, he gets it done," says Fuentes. Based on Hernandez's record, no mission is impossible, after all.

Frederick Kaplan
University of Pennsylvania

The disease was so rare, nobody wanted to deal with it, until he came along.

Dr. Fred Kaplan can't stop thinking about his kids. Daytime, nighttime, weekends. Their pictures cover his office walls; their smiles line the hallway of his lab at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. And their letters ("Your the best Dr. in the howl wild wirld") hang next to his desk, displayed more proudly than any medical degree or award. Kaplan's kids are his patients, children with a rare and immobilizing disease called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. The first time he saw a child with FOP, says Kaplan, "it had the emotional impact of an atom bomb."

FOP, which strikes roughly one in 2 million people worldwide, causes muscle and tendon to morph into hardened bone, imprisoning children in a second skeleton. The horror of the disorder--shoulders, hips and jaws fuse into locked positions--propels Kaplan's scientific mission. The children, whose average life span is 45, drive his devotion. Kaplan, 54, has spent more than 15 years unraveling the molecular and genetic blueprints of FOP. Early on, his colleagues told him he was wasting his time on a disease that afflicts fewer than 300 people in the United States. But Kaplan powered on. "It was a compelling problem screaming for a solution," he says. And nobody else was helping. "I wanted a mountain to climb."

In April, Kaplan, along with his colleague Dr. Eileen Shore, his team at Penn and international collaborators, reached the summit: they pinpointed a single gene mutation--one letter out of 6 billion in the human genome--that causes the runaway bone growth of FOP. Uncovering the "master key to the skeleton," as Kaplan calls it, could have dramatic implications. With a genetic target in hand, scientists may be able to design a drug that turns off the bone-growth switch in FOP. The discovery could also have an impact well beyond FOP, stopping the complication of extra bone growth after hip replacements or spinal-cord injuries. One day, says Kaplan, the skeleton key might even allow researchers to grow bone in a controlled way, helping people who suffer from osteoporosis or fractures that fail to heal. A rare disease? Yes, but as Kaplan suspected from the very beginning, one with universal applications.

As of now, there is no cure for FOP, no way to stop the explosion of new bone, which is exacerbated by falls, bruises, injections and surgery. Even today, few doctors know about the disease--close to 90 percent of patients are initially given incorrect diagnoses, including cancer. The FOP gene discovery gives Kaplan's patients great hope for the future, but it is his compassion and infectious optimism that keep them going day to day. Fred, as he's known to just about everyone, takes calls in the middle of the night and on weekends, always ready to answer questions and soothe concerns. "I don't think the poor man sleeps," says Carol Zapata-Whelan, whose son Vincent was diagnosed with FOP in 1995. "He has so much spirit and so much love and understanding," says Lori Henrotay, whose daughter, Carli, was diagnosed in kindergar-ten. The first time they met, Kaplan played patty-cake with Carli. "He knows how to make kids comfortable during a very scary time," says Lori. Carli, now 10, has bumps of extra bone on her back, and her jaw and right hip have fused. Still, she says she feels "lucky" to know Kaplan. "He gives us hope," she says. Daniel Licht, who was diagnosed on his 3rd birthday, remembers playing soccer with Kaplan, his "friend," in the long hallway of his lab. One recent day in the exam room, Kaplan's hands rested gently, reassuringly, on the bony knots on Daniel's back, neck and shoulders. When the visit was over, Daniel, now 12, smiled. He says he knows why Kaplan works so hard: "To help kids like me."

That help comes at no cost--Kaplan has never charged an FOP patient. "I find it unconscionable," he says. "Who else are they going to turn to?" Kaplan's salary comes from the university and an endowed chair; the majority of his research dollars are raised by FOP families at barbecues, golf tournaments and garage sales. Last year's total: $1.2 million. Kaplan says he won't quit until there's an effective treatment--and a cure. In the meantime he's cultivating young talent. This summer Vincent Whelan, now 19 and a pre-med student, will spend a week working in Kaplan's lab. "Dr. Kaplan has really inspired me to want to be a doctor," he says. A great legacy for a hero of a man.

Margaret Ross
Oakland, Miss.

At 73, this retired librarian does whatever she can to help whomever she can.

Margaret Ross, 73, says she's just like her neighbors in Oakland, Miss.: in this rural farming town (population: 600) people help one another. But even among those who live by the golden rule, Ross is something special. Soft-spoken and energetic, she's raised five children on a dairy farm, worked as a librarian and now spends her days quietly helping people. She's involved in a prison ministry. She corresponds with a homeless woman she met while vacationing in San Diego. When illness strikes, friends and even friends of friends rely on her to drive them to the doctor, a trip that can take two hours each way. After she discovered that a neighbor was struggling with debilitating heart disease, Ross regularly brought her food, toiletries and medicine--then launched a two-year campaign to get her a Social Security check. Being a town elder helps. "I'm old enough to be a pretty good judge of character," she says. She also knows whom to tap for help. Not long ago, a family from Arkansas pulled off the interstate at Oakland, hungry, out of gas and broke. The cashier at the Exxon station called Ross, who collected enough money to get them on their way. "There's so many wonderful things that happen on a small scale," says Ross. "I wish people could read more about them." Consider it done.

The folks below are, to be blunt, the no-brainers. In some cases, their very names have become synonymous with a cause. Lance Armstrong: cancer research. Al Gore: the environment. Oprah: free cars. (Actually, those famous wheels are just the tip of the "niceberg" for Winfrey.) They've used every asset they've got to spread the gospel of giving--their money, their brains, even their pretty faces. Let's return the favor by giving them a tip of the cap.

Lance Armstrong
Cancer Research

His ubiquitous Livestrong bracelets have raised $55 million for cancer survivors. And his deathbed-to-cycling-god personal story has re-energized the fight for a cure.

Veronica Atkins
Obesity, Diabetes

Dr. Atkins's widow--yes, that Atkins--is determined to shrink America's obesity epidemic. So far, she's pledged $450 million to studying its link to nutrition and disease.

Eli Broad
Education, Medical Research

Sun America finance tycoon has poured $2 billion into public education and medical research. His annual Broad Prize awards $1 million to stellar urban school districts.

Jimmy Carter
Global Health

Nobel Peace Prize winner, widely admired ex-president, tireless disease-prevention worker. Latest crusade: ending river blindness in Africa. Not bad for a peanut farmer.

Michael J. Fox
Parkinson's Research

In 2000 the TV star gave himself a decade to find a cure for the disease he's had since 1991. So far, he's raised $80 million, driving scientists closer to the finish line.

Bill Gates
Global Health, Education

The galaxy's alpha giver; no one approaches his nearly $30 billion in lifetime gifts. Next up: quitting Microsoft in 2008 to help reboot the U.S. public-education system.

Al Gore

His hit film has done more in a month for green awareness than his 20 years in D.C. Derided for pushing the issue as veep, his box office ($7 million so far) is sweet vindication.

Gordon Moore

Intel's cofounder is the world's top giver since 2001. His $7 billion total is more than even Gates's. And he doesn't just toss money around; Moore's known for funding solutions.

Paul Newman
Childhood Health

Who knew salad dressing could help save the world? His Newman's Own line has generated more than $200 million since ' 82. His camp for sick kids lets them be just that--kids.

Rosie O'Donnell
Early Education and the Arts

For O'Donnell, it's all about the tykes. Her foundation has raised $56 million for child care; the Broadway project trains kids to belt out show tunes like the Queen of Nice herself.

David Rockefeller
Medical Research And The Arts

He's upholding the tradition for the most famous surname in American philanthropy. He gives millions to art-education outreach, medical research and fighting AIDS in Africa.

Ted Turner
International Security

Fearful of the apocalypse (seriously; check out his Web site), he's given $1.25 billion in global aid and founded the Nuclear Threat Initiative to ensure no one launches nukes.

Oprah Winfrey
Disaster Relief

Her Angel Network has raised $50 million for Third World schools, $10 million for Katrina and $1 million for tsunami aid. In her spare time, she enjoys giving away Pontiacs.

Tiger Woods
Youth Education

He can't give away talent, so he gives lessons in work ethics: his Start Something program helps kids set and achieve goals. He opened a $25 million youth-ed facility in February.


In our profile of Brad Pitt ("15 People Who Make America Great") we stated that Global Green USA has received more than 3,000 submissions for its sustainable-architecture competition. In fact, some 3,000 people pre-registered for the competition, but 126 design submissions were submitted. In our story about Pierre Omidyar, in the same article, we should have said that Omidyar donated millions of dollars to Grameen Foundation USA, not Grameen Bank. NEWSWEEK regrets the errors.

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