Profiles > Philanthropy > The Actors Fund
The Actors Fund
The Actors Fund, also known as Actors Fund of America, is a non-profit human services organization was founded on June 8, 1882, by Albert Marshman Palmer. This was largely thanks to the persistence and foresight of former New York University student Harrison Grey Friske, editor of the New York Dramatic Mirror, who was aware of the problems faced by those in American entertainment and performing arts. The Actors Fund (TAF)
serves professionals in films, theatre, television, music, opera, and dance through a broad spectrum of programs, including comprehensive social services, health services, supportive and affordable housing, employment and training services, and skilled nursing and assisted living care.
During the late 1800s, when the US was still recovering from the devastating impact of the civil war, theater suffered a tremendous setback when President Lincoln was assassinated by an actor, John Wilkes Booth. Although prejudices against the profession existed prior to that time, Lincoln’s death rekindled the old hatred and added fuel to fire. Given their low standing, members of the entertainment profession were regularly denied charity by most institutions, including many religious organizations, and at times, were even denied a decent burial.
At its start, TAF provided assistance to individuals and families, and by 1887 TAF purchased a cemetery in Brooklyn to ensure that no one in the fraternity was without a proper burial. With the success of the Madison Square Garden Fair in 1892, the first Actors Fund Home on Staten Island was completed in 1902. This was the first time that the profession was accepted by the society and the dedication ceremony was attended by President Grover Cleveland (and his wife), John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Founded 1882
Founder Albert Marshman Palmer
Headquarters New York
Type Arts and Culture
Recent Year Revenue $27,800,000
Charity Navigator 62.30 / 70.00
Guide Star Gold 6/6
Special Benefit performances around the country and a series of highly successful fairs filled the coffers of The Fund, so that it could continue to provide assistance to entertainment professionals. The 1907 fair was opened by President Theodore Roosevelt, while the 1917 fair was opened by President Woodrow Wilson, who pressed a button in Washington.
In 1916, the Motion Picture Campaign for The Fund created a production of Julius Caesar at the natural amphitheatre in Los Angeles. There were two Roman Legions and hundreds of dancing girls in the cast, which was headed by William Farnum, Tyrone Power, and Douglas Fairbanks.
In 1927, the first Fund benefit was brought under the Actors’ Equity Contract. The play was "Porgy." In 1928, The Actors Fund Home was relocated from Staten Island to Englewood, New Jersey. By 1959 the home needed to be expanded, and was rebuilt as a modern structure, which was completed in 1961.
The Percy Williams Home closed its Long Island facility and constructed a new wing at The Actors Fund Home in 1975, further expanding The Fund’s ability to provide services to the elderly.
Throughout the next several decades, benefit performances held throughout the country raised significant amounts of revenue to subsidize The Fund's many projects. The 1990’s was a dynamic decade for The Fund. The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative was created. The Free Health Clinic was founded to provide health care to the uninsured and under-insured. The Aurora (now The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence) in New York City and The Palm View in Hollywood were developed to provide affordable housing to those in need.
The Actors Work Program (AWP) was brought under the umbrella of The Fund in 1998 and the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) was created to provide a comprehensive web-based informational guide to health insurance. In 2003, The Actors Fund Work Program launched “Looking Ahead” to advise younger performers on ways to plan for their future. The Free Health Clinic in New York was expanded and renamed The Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic in honor of the great theatrical artist. The Fund continues to evolve and respond to the particular needs of the entertainment community. The Dancers' Resource, a program founded by Trustee Bebe Neuwirth in 2007, provides services to address the distinctive needs of dancers facing health problems and injuries. In 2008, The Howl Emergency Life Project (HELP) was created to provide emergency financial assistance and social service support to artists who participated in the annual Howl Festival or who made their careers in New York City’s East Village and Lower East Side arts community. In 2009, The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation was established as a subsidiary of The Fund, with a mission to develop affordable, supportive, and senior housing for the performing arts and entertainment community.
Services and Programs – The Fund is a safety net, offering quality services and individual attention to the community, offering a place to return to in times of need or crisis. Administered from offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, TAF’s mission is to help all professionals in performing arts and entertainment through its various services and programs, which are as follows:
Social Service and Financial Assistance – The Actors Fund Social Services offers comprehensive programs designed to meet the critical needs of entertainment professionals throughout their lives. Social workers provide crisis intervention, individual and family needs assessments, and develop long-term plans, including ongoing support, education, information, and referrals. In addition, financial assistance can be provided for essential living expenses, such as rent, utilities or medical costs. Eligibility for financial assistance varies from one program to another and the Intake Social Workers at the fund help determine how best the fund may be of assistance. Under this program, The Fund’s initiatives include the Entertainment Assistance Program, which helps members manage the different types of demands related to their work and personal life. Mental Health helps members and their families deal with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related issues. The Chemical Dependency Service helps professionals and their families when there is drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction-related problems, while the Financial Wellness Program provides financial education, referrals, counseling, and support to members. There are several other services and initiatives under this program aimed at providing assistance to the specific problems and needs of the members and their families.
Healthcare and Health Insurance – The Fund considers healthcare as the paramount need of members of the entertainment and performing arts community. Its health services programs offer internet-based and personal health insurance guidance, solutions-based health care counseling, experience-based health referrals, and, through the fund’s own free clinic, direct medical care to people who are uninsured.
TAF’s Access to Health Insurance/Resources for Care (AHIRC) database actively pursues links to the newest internet sites for local health care programs, while the Health Insurance Resource Center provides updates for workshops and seminars with regard to information on the latest health insurance products -- government and private. The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative (PNWHI) addresses current and future health issues that impact women in the entertainment industry, while the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic not only provides excellent general care to people who are uninsured, but also constantly seeks access to affordable testing and specialist services for its clients. The Actors Fund HIV/AIDS Initiative works with men and women in the entertainment industry impacted by HIV/AIDS, and helps create confidential, holistic plans and support systems to meet each individual’s emotional, medical, and financial needs over the long term. The help includes advocacy, counseling, financial assistance, and referral to community resources. It also has access to The Fund’s affordable housing in New York and Los Angeles. This initiative is the largest recipient of funds from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Sideline Work and New Careers – Most entertainment industry professionals are employed on a project basis, and are therefore constantly looking for work. Due to intense competition and high unemployment rates, these professionals often need to have parallel careers. Many of the skills practiced by these entertainment industry professionals -- including communication skills, discipline, creativity, flexibility and professionalism -- are highly valued in the broader labor market. TAF recognizes the need to assist the community in identifying and obtaining non-industry work that is rewarding, as well as one that complements an individual’s entertainment industry career. It is mindful of the fact that these professionals need employment that not only helps pay bills, but also feeds the soul.
The Actors Fund Work Program is a comprehensive workforce development program that provides career counseling, job training, and job placement to help community members find work that can be carried out while continuing in the entertainment industry or developing a new professional direction. It also has a special service for AIDS Initiative members who are unable to return to the workforce or engage in meaningful activities.
Young Performers – The Fund recognizes the need to create unique services and programs for young performers and their families, as they face issues and challenges related to giving their children a healthy and positive experience. Young performers have additional challenges connected to their involvement in activities related to their careers -- balancing academic, family and social activities alongside work and auditions; finding appropriate school venues; deciding on home schooling versus private schooling versus public education; coping with intense industry competition; and financial management. TAF’s Looking Ahead program (in California) supports young performers aged 9 through 18, to develop the values, skills, and the confidence required to make successful transitions to fulfilling activities.
Housing – Housing is a critical concern for many in the performing arts and entertainment industry, and The Fund works in various ways to provide access to affordable and secure housing to the community. The Fund provides residential accommodations to community members at The Lillian Booth Actors Home, an assisted living and skilled nursing home in Englewood, New Jersey; The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence (formerly known as The Aurora), which is an affordable, supportive housing residence on 57th Street in NYC, providing housing to low-income professionals, the elderly, and persons with HIV/AIDS. The Palm View Residence provides affordable housing to industry members with HIV/AIDS in West Hollywood (CA), while The Schermerhorn in downtown Brooklyn provides housing to low-income professionals and formerly homeless individuals with HIV/AIDS or mental health problems.
The fund also provides information, resources and support to community members. Seminars are regularly held in New York City to educate members about affordable housing options. The Housing Resource Center provides information on finding affordable housing, roommate and home sharing, tenant rights, housing court, and purchasing a first home, while the Housing Bulletin Board allows industry members to post available housing opportunities and search for places to live. The Entertainment Assistance Program can provide emergency financial assistance to maintain stable housing and prevent eviction. In 2009, TAF created The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation -- in order to develop new affordable housing for the community, and The Downtown Arts Center -- an affordable residence for artists combined with community arts and cultural spaces (which is now in the pre-development phase in Los Angeles).
Allocation of Expenses
As per the audited financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2012, The Actors Fund of America and its subsidiaries received total support and revenues of $31.85 million, versus which the total expenses stood at $31.46 million. Of the total expenses, $26.38 million or 84% was toward program service expenses, while $5.08 million was expended toward support services.
How one can help
Contributions from individuals, corporations, and other institutional entities enable TAF to provide support through a variety of programs to more than 15,000 people each year. It also helps provide important information and resources through (its) Actors Health Insurance Resource Center to more than 300,000 people. One may choose to participate via membership; by joining the Young Professionals; making a grant; helping through a planned giving opportunity; production support, or matching gift. The Actors Fund offers a wide range of options for involvement to individuals, corporations, philanthropists, donor agencies and others.
The Actors Fund also runs the 6-acre Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey, which is an assisted living and skilled nursing care facility for retired members of the entertainment community. It provides a comfortable living environment for 124 entertainment professionals. Of these, the Home serves 42 elderly who may still be active, and can benefit from special assistance. It provides 24-hour care to 82 residents who are no longer able to care for themselves. The facility permits automatic transfer of assisted living care facility residents at the appropriate time and also serves as a convalescent facility for residents who undergo surgery or require close, temporary observation. The Home is licensed by the Department of Health and qualifies for Medicaid and Medicare. Individuals who have dedicated a major portion of their lives to the entertainment industry are eligible for admission, regardless of their ability to pay. The Home has a wing dedicated to the American actor Edwin Forrest for his Forrest Home for retired actors in Philadelphia. Among the most famous residents were Joseph Sultzer and Charles Marks, better known as the comedy team of Smith and Dale, who were the inspiration for Neil Simon’s hit play and movie “The Sunshine Boys” and Ray Heatherton, who is fondly remembered as The Merry Mailman.
The Fund is a safety net, providing programs and services for those in need, crisis, or transition. The Fund’s future is bright, and the new projects and programs under exploration are exciting.
To quote founder Harrison Grey Fiske --
Even in prosperous times, the need for an Actors Fund arises.
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