POWER OF WOMEN NY
Portfolio by Marco Grob
Charity: Planned Parenthood
Jessica Chastain turned to Planned Parenthood as a young woman. “That’s where I got my birth control pills,” she says. “That’s where I learned about sex education. It was a very important place to me.” The Oscar-nominated actress acknowledges that such services weren’t always available. ¶ “I’m the first woman in my family not to have a child as a teenager,” Chastain says. “I’m the first one to go to college. When my grandmother was younger, she didn’t have access to birth control or sex education. My mom, the same thing. It’s very important in our society to protect women who financially don’t have the means to pay for healthcare, and Planned Parenthood does that.” ¶ But Planned Parenthood, which is 100 years old, has been under fire. The Trump administration and pro-life Republicans are threatening to defund the non-profit unless it stops providing abortions in its clinics. ¶ “Politicians in D.C. are mounting the biggest attack on women’s health in a generation, and blocking access to Planned Parenthood is their top priority,” says Dawn Laguens, the group’s chief brand officer. “Women are resisting these attacks. They know speaking up and speaking out can change the direction of this government.” ¶ If the Republican legislation passes, Planned Parenthood wouldn’t receive federal funds for its 650 health centers across the U.S., where 2.5 million patients visit annually for cancer screenings, breast exams, STD tests, and more. ¶ “I’m absolutely worried that if we don’t support Planned Parenthood and healthcare for women, we’ll head backward,” says Chastain. “I guess I’m not surprised by the war on women’s healthcare. I think it’s something I’ve seen for the majority of my life.” — Ramin Setoodeh
Charity: Alliance for a Healthier Generation
After Bill Clinton underwent emergency heart bypass surgery in 2004, he reached out to the American Heart Assn. to see what he could do for the organization. He envisioned it would want him to be the poster child for men visiting their doctors more regularly — but the group had another mission in mind: “The American Heart Assn. said, ‘Yes, please talk about that. But what we really need help on is childhood obesity,’” recalls Chelsea Clinton. ¶ That conversation led to the 2005 creation of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, co-founded by the Clinton Foundation, which empowers kids to develop good, lifelong habits around nutrition and physical activity. “Today, the Alliance is the largest childhood obesity effort in the country,” says Chelsea, who sits on the organization’s board of directors. “We work in more than 35,000 schools, touching the lives of more than 20 million kids.” ¶ In recent years, the nonprofit has expanded to work with after-school programs and McDonald’s, which has exchanged soda for juice and French fries for fruit in some markets. “Things like that may seem small, but that’s led to billions more servings of apples,” Clinton says. ¶ Clinton has also implemented a test program in 21 juvenile detention centers, which she studied as a correspondent at NBC News in 2012. At the Alliance, she toured one facility in Little Rock, Ark., with CEO Howell Wechsler, to observe the conditions. ¶ “She did a brilliant job of not only interacting with the director and staff, but with the youth that are incarcerated there,” Wechsler says. ¶ Clinton, who holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, argues that this work touches on all corners of society. “If you care about economy, you have to care about childhood obesity, because we know the implications for productivity,” Clinton says. “If you care about national security, you care about childhood obesity — we’ve had years where the military has said there are not as many people who could meet the fitness tests. I think you have to pay attention to this issue, and hopefully be part of the solution.” — Ramin Setoodeh
Charity: SEO Scholars
Gayle King grew up in a household where it was never a question whether she was going to college. “I couldn’t wait,” she says of college in general and, specifically, of her alma mater, the University of Maryland, where she double-majored in psychology and sociology. “Who’s going to be my roommate? What classes am I going to have? Filling out the application form.” But for many children raised in modest-income families, these conversations aren’t part of their upbringing. ¶ “A lot of people know you have to do well on your SATs or ACTs or your parents are getting you a tutor,” King says. “What if you grow up in a home where nobody does any of that?” ¶ That’s why the “CBS This Morning” co-host has been excited to shine a light on Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), a New York nonprofit with businessman Henry Kravis as its chairman and founding partner. SEO Scholars enrolls 260 students a year, starting in the ninth grade, for an intensive program — full days of instruction every Saturday and for the month of July — a schedule that continues through all four years of high school. Some 80 instructors unspool the curriculum, taught in the Socratic method, emphasizing critical reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar, and math. ¶ This academic boot camp yields impressive results: By the 12th grade, students have eliminated the gap measured by SAT scores, and 100% of the kids enter a four-year college. “Eighty five percent will be the first in their family to earn a college degree,” says William Goodloe, the president and CEO of SEO Scholars. “We see that as a way of breaking the cycle of poverty.” ¶ King has witnessed the kids’ determination after meeting with some of them for a tour of her digs at “CBS This Morning.” She also recently emceed an awards dinner for SEO Scholars, kicking off the evening by donating $10,000 from her own checkbook. “They’re teaching these kids at a very early age to get ready,” King says. “If you get kids early, you get kids who are really committed.” — Ramin Setoodeh
Charity: Child Rescue Coalition
Blake Lively wants to use the power of the web to crack down on child pornography. The movie star (“The Shallows,” “Café Society”) is working with the Child Rescue Coalition on promoting a groundbreaking technology that flags the IP addresses of people who share and download sexually explicit images of minors. ¶ The actress and L’Oreal pitchwoman found out about the nonprofit at an event sponsored by the cosmetics company. “There are millions of files all over the world being traded every single day of child pornography,” says Lively, who was drawn to the cause as the mother of two young children. “It’s so disturbing. A lot of these people are fathers.” ¶ Coalition CEO Carly Asher Yoost says she and Lively were immediately simpatico. “We hit it off, and we’re both passionate about protecting kids,” says Yoost, who founded the nonprofit organization in 2013, in Boca Raton, Fla. “We stayed in touch, and she really wanted to help. She got us a meeting at a technology summit at Facebook.” ¶ Yoost hopes to convince internet providers to block users from sharing child pornography, as she points to research that suggests 85% of those who consume it have abused children sexually. “Our mission is to protect the innocent,” Yoost says. “We try to get [the data] in the hands of law enforcement.” ¶ By partnering with officials in 67 countries, the Child Rescue Coalition has led to the arrest of 9,000 predators, and rescued 2,084 children from active abuse. “If you proactively find these predators, you can save so many children,” says Lively.
— Ramin Setoodeh
Charity: Covenant House
The most decorated star on Broadway regularly spends the night on the sidewalk. For the last few years, six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald has joined Sleep Out: Broadway Edition, which invites hundreds of members of the New York theater community to pass an entire night on the street, regardless of weather. The annual event is a fundraiser for Covenant House, the organization that helps homeless teens in 30 cities across six countries. ¶ McDonald first got to know Covenant House when she was working on “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” the 2014 Billie Holiday bio that earned her that sixth Tony. She’s since become a board member. Although she was initially spurred by Holiday’s history (the blues singer was herself a homeless teen), McDonald’s connection to the organization runs much deeper. “I’m trying to raise socially aware activists and feminists and citizens of the human race, and Covenant House really brought all of that more into focus,” says the mother of two, whose youngest, Sally James, was born last year. “Everything I bought for the baby, I’ve been like, ‘You get to borrow it for a minute, Sally James, but it’s for the Cov kids,’” referring to the organization’s programs for teen mothers. ¶ Kevin Ryan, the president and CEO of Covenant House, says he regularly receives notes and checks from new donors who say they were inspired to become involved when they heard McDonald speak about the charity during one of her concerts. “What I love about [Audra],” Ryan says, “is she really understands that the least interesting thing about our kids is their homelessness. They’re students and interns and actors and rappers and poets.” ¶ McDonald gets the chance to spend time with the kids when she visits local outposts of Covenant House on the down low, or serves them breakfast on Thanksgiving Day — or spends the night with them at the Sleep Out. “You wake up the next morning, if you slept at all, and you’re converted,” she says. “These kids, this is their life. It just changes you’re worldview. It can’t not.” — Gordon Cox
Charity: Legal Services Corp.
From filing for divorce to challenging an eviction notice, there are plenty of times when Americans need a lawyer. But unlike in criminal cases, where people have the right to a public defender, in civil suits they need to pay for an attorney out of their own pocket. ¶ “One of the things we take for granted in this country is that rule of law exists,” says Shari Redstone. “The entire legal system was built upon the assumption that people would have adequate representation. When they don’t, the system fails and the laws don’t matter.” ¶ That’s where Legal Services Corp. comes in. The group that Redstone supports provides funding to 134 legal-aid organizations, which, in turn, give counsel to close to 2 million people. Redstone is one of the most powerful voices in the entertainment business, overseeing her family’s controlling stakes in Viacom and CBS Corp., and running Advancit Capital, a new media investment fund. Before joining the global conglomerates, Redstone started her career as a defense attorney. It’s part of the reason she got involved as a member of Legal Services Corp.’s leaders council. ¶ “I saw the legal system close up, and I understood that it was built by lawyers for lawyers, and unless you have an attorney to navigate it you’re not going to be successful,” says Redstone. ¶ James Sandman, president of Legal Services Corp., praises Redstone for shining a spotlight on the justice gap. ¶ “The biggest challenge we face is ignorance of the problem,” says Sandman. “Shari has access to platforms and audiences that most people in legal-aid circles don’t.” ¶ When she’s not giving back, Redstone says she’s happiest spending time with her family, particularly her young grandchildren. A lot of bonding takes place in the kitchen. ¶ “I’m known for my desserts,” she says. ¶ There’s plenty to keep her occupied professionally. “It’s a new day for Viacom,” says Redstone. “Businesses, in order to be successful, it’s all about the culture. It’s all about the people. We lost that focus, but it’s back, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity we have to be a leader in the industry.” — Brent Lang
Power of Women NY