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by Elizabeth Enright, AARP The Magazine, November 17, 2006
Beautiful clothes—like money and silicone—are abundant in Hollywood. That's what actress Jane Kaczmarek realized back in 2002, post-9/11, when stars attending the Emmy Awards were asked to wear business attire instead of designer duds. Kaczmarek, 50, who had been nominated for her role as the angst-ridden suburban mom in Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, figured that rather than wasting the fancy clothes, celebrities might want to donate them for auction online, with the proceeds benefiting children. Now in its fourth year, the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation, which Kaczmarek founded with her husband, actor Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), has raised more than $500,000 for Cure Autism Now and the Children's Defense Fund, among other organizations. Three years ago Jennifer Aniston's vintage Dior fetched $50,000, which went to immunize 50,000 children in Sudan. It's these kinds of results that drive Kaczmarek to tirelessly pick up the phone and ask, plead, and push for contributions. Raised in a middle-class Polish American family in the Midwest, Kaczmarek still abhors waste, counts her blessings—which include three healthy children—and believes in a Hollywood-style noblesse oblige. "Celebrity is a kind of currency that we can spend or squander, and I think we have a responsibility to spend it," she says. "My heart spills over knowing that an evening gown that no one will wear again is giving a child a real reason to smile."
*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.
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