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For years now, Sean Penn has put his stamp on Golden Globes weekend with a Beverly Hills-set fundraiser all in the name of Haiti to raise funds and awareness for his J/P Haitian Relief Organization and its recovery efforts following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Tonight, Penn, J/P HRO and its most famous supporters are gathering at Koreatown concert venue The Wiltern for a fundraiser — Haiti + Beyond — during which the Oscar-winner is revealing a rebranding for his nonprofit — a name change and new logo while announcing an expanded mission and strategic vision and focus to include work in the United States and the Caribbean.
J/P HRO will now go by the name CORE, which is dedicated to saving lives while strengthening communities affected by or vulnerable to crises. “CORE envisions a world where at-risk communities are prepared for, resilient to, and able to respond and recover quickly and effectively, in the face of emergency,” reads the nonprofit’s new vision statement.
The move follows J/P HRO’s efforts in response to natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Antigua, Barbuda, North Carolina and Florida, sites of recent hurricanes. “Our ethos and successes have been hard forged in the context of Haiti,” Penn tells THR in a statement. “There, J/P HRO has weathered a lot of storms hand-in-hand with communities that have for so long been marginalized and vulnerable. We constantly strive to grow and learn with them to better support those in need. After nine years, our organization made up of majority Haitians, is now using our singular expertise to respond and support communities facing disaster in the Caribbean and the U.S. Our staff and board are excited for this next chapter, and as a founder I could not be more proud to see this organization expanding its mission and focus, to reach even more communities with its life-saving programs.”
CORE CEO Ann Lee, who joined Penn at J/P HRO in 2016, credits the success of the organization to Penn and his way of thinking. “It’s been organic and stems from Sean being a very audacious outsider. He asks, ‘Why isn’t this happening?’ It sounds so obvious, but the international community does not normally think in those terms…. Sean has been our fearless leader and we are reflecting his vision and what he’s been dreaming about since he first went down there. We’re not doing this alone. We’re getting support from badass people.”
As part of the expansion, Lee adds that by the end of the first quarter, the organization will announce an expanded board, while longtime board members like Penn and CAA’s Bryan Lourd will continue to serve. Also expected: new staffers and strategic partnerships with other nonprofits to provide emergency services in low-income neighborhoods and at-risk areas.
But while J/P HRO is branching out, Haiti will not be left in the rearview. The country remains a primary passion for Penn, who, when he arrived following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the tiny country Jan. 12, 2010, thought he might be there a week, give or take. But the devastation and his desire to assist in every aspect of rebuilding led to the launch of J/P HRO. It has remained planted on the ground there for almost a decade, evolving from emergency relief to include programs focused on education, community development and reforestation.
Despite the steps forward, the country is in a “very unique period in its history,” notes Lee, following anti-government protests and rioting that have dominated news coverage in recent weeks. “Right now, there’s a lot of political difficulty there but what’s been kind of exciting is that there’s an awareness and consciousness at the citizen level that I haven’t seen in a long time. I’m an eternal optimist, and I believe that the next two years will be quite critical…. When you drive around the country and compare it to what it was like there, there’s no comparison. The country is so different in a positive way.”
Inside the Wiltern tonight, Penn and his most famous supporters are gathering for a fundraiser that will feature honorees like Anderson Cooper, Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, and Ambassador Kenneth Merten, along with billionaire chairs Sean Parker and Marc Benioff; hosts like CAA power agent Lourd; master of ceremonies Jamie Foxx; and an eclectic co-host committee that boats Bradley Cooper, Mark Burnett, Lena Dunham, Spike Jonze, Bill Maher and Ben Stiller. Sponsors include The Hollywood Reporter, The Parker Foundation and Salesforce.
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