The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 10, 2011

DONATE: Recovery efforts get starpower with $500,000 donation from Pitt, Jolie

By Joe Hadsall

JOPLIN, Mo. — Officials with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, based in Springfield, knew on May 23 that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were interested in making a donation.

“We had a call in the first day or two afterward from an organization representing them,” said Brian Fogle, president of the CFO. “They made several subsequent calls, but we learned that they made a donation (Thursday).”

The Jolie-Pitt Foundation, a charitable group started by the Hollywood couple, donated $500,000 to long-term recovery efforts in Joplin. The money has been added to the Joplin Recovery Fund, which now has more than $1 million.

Fogle said that the money will be used to address needs down the road.

“It’s been our experience that there is an outpouring on the relief side,” Fogle said. “There are great agencies that focus on that. But people don’t think about the long-term recovery, so that’s what this fund is for.”

Fogle said 100 percent of the funds will go toward relief efforts. They will be distributed by local officials with the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, an affiliate of the CFO.

Lisa Knutzen, president of the local affiliate, said that the fund will help people’s unmet needs once they have gone through insurance, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other agencies.

“It’s a wonderful contribution that they made,” Knutzen said. “It brings more attention to Joplin. We’re talking about three to five years of recovery time for some of these families.”

Pitt and Jolie are known for their philanthropy as much as their popularity. Pitt started the group Make it Right, an effort that builds new, energy-efficient homes in the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged area of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. He has also made donations to Springfield-based organizations such as the Discovery Center.

Pitt, who graduated from Kickapoo High School in Springfield, has a personal tie to Joplin. His mother, Jane Hillhouse, attended school in Joplin and graduated from Joplin High School in 1958.

At that time, the school was housed in what is now the Memorial Education Center, where this fall, Joplin ninth- and 10th-graders will be housed. Hillhouse then attended Joplin Junior College in the same building as a freshman and sophomore, graduating in 1960.

“With the devastating loss of 30 percent of the city, the Joplin community faces great challenges ahead,” Pitt said in a press release. “Having spent much of my childhood there, I know these people to be hardworking, humble and especially resilient.”

Andra Bryan Stefanoni contributed to this report.