Tom Hanks, Sally Field and a bunch of stars are about to give a charity party, even if it upsets the people it’s benefiting.
The charity is the Motion Picture and TV Fund, which operates the Motion Picture Home, Hollywood’s premiere retirement community for entertainers.
Every year on the night before the Oscars, DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg hosts a star-studded event to raise money for the Fund called “The Night Before.” But last winter the Fund announced it’s going to close the long-term care facility at its Woodland Hills campus and transfer more than 100 patients who expected to live out their lives there.
That hasn’t stopped Katzenberg. He’s throwing a similar bash on the night before the Emmy Awards, called The Evening Before. And some of the people connected to the home don’t want a fancy party while their friends are being evicted from the very place that’s supposedly being preserved.
A group called Saving the Lives of Our Own (www.savingthelivesofourown.org) has written letters to the party’s sponsors — Target, People magazine and Sprint — as well as to celebrity hosts like Sally Field, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jon Stewart and Hugh Laurie.
What do they want?
According to the letter, which they’ve given to yours truly:
* An immediate reversal of the decision to close the long-term care facility in acknowledgment of the commitment made to these seniors and their families
* That the MPTF allow fundraising donations specifically earmarked for the purpose of keeping the facility open
* Financial transparency from this non-profit charity in the form of an independent audit of the MTPF and all its related entities.
What will they do if they don’t get these things? The likelihood is that they will protest outside of Craft restaurant in Century City on the night of Sept. 19. They did it last February, on the night before the Oscars. The result was a lot of famous people declining to attend The Night Before.
Ken Scherer, CEO of the Fund, e-mailed me a statement via his publicist. He wrote: ‘MPTF social services and charitable assistance programs that supports over 5,000 industry members each year depend on the funds raised at events like the Evening Before and Night Before. Collectively these two events will raise over $6 million in 2009 to help at a time when more and more industry people are depending on MPTF for assistance.’
Still, Saving the Lives has attracted a number of high-profile supporters including Elliott Gould, Diane Ladd, Mykelti Williamson, and famed writer Larry Gelbart. The Screen Actors Guild National Board recently voted to oppose the closing of the long-term care facility.
In case you wondered, the Motion Picture Fund “home” has become quite the swell place for retirement in the Los Angeles area. The campus is divided into three parts called Country House Cottages, the Fran and Ray Stark Villas and the Frances Goldwyn Lodge. They have dry cleaning, a hair salon, a TV studio and lots of amenities that are rarely seen in assisted living campuses.
Some of the critics claim that if salaries weren’t so high, there would be more money for services. In fact, the top three Fund executives (including Scherer) earn a total of $1,313,948 according to the 2007 tax filing. The next five employees average $140,000 each. According to the 2007 filing, the Fund pays about $33.5 million in other salaries. It claims to have received $31.4 million in direct public support in 2007 and had net assets of nearly $172 million. By comparison, the famed Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, the Bronx — similar in size — has about the half the amount in assets, and its top three execs are paid a total of 50% less. But they do have Kosher chicken.
The letter in its entirety:
Dear Ms. Sally Field,
We’re writing to you on behalf of Saving the Lives of Our Own. Grown entirely by word-of-mouth, web and Facebook, we are a grass-roots, volunteer coalition of over 4000 Entertainment Industry workers, and concerned community and family members committed to keeping the Motion Picture Television Fund Nursing Home open.
This historic nursing home, also termed a ‘long-term care facility,’ has cared for many of the greats of our industry, including Hattie McDaniel, Bud Abbott, Stanley Kramer, Norma Shearer and many, many others. The residents who live there now were promised that this would be the place where they would spend their final days on Earth, surrounded by their Industry peers.
You might have heard that both the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA recently expressed public opposition and concern over the closure. Our SAG supporters include Anne-Marie Johnson and Ken Howard, along with Elliot Gould, Diane Ladd, Frances Fisher, Bill Smitrovich, John Schneider, Jamie Farr, Loretta Swit (whose 103-year-old mother is a resident), Connie Stevens, the entire SAG Senior Performers Committee and others.
Our goal is simple. We want to KEEP THE HOME OPEN. If you’ve ever had a relative in a nursing home, you know what kind of emotional and physical trauma they would endure if they were suddenly forced to move. You know that they might well not survive it. And this is what we’ve seen in the residents who’ve been transferred from the facility already ‘ five of the first fifteen died within days or weeks of leaving.
There is also a severe shortage of nursing home beds in Los Angeles County, and an even more serious shortage of comparable facilities where our elderly would be cared for in a similar and safe manner.
Saving the Lives of Our Own has two requests: transparency from the Fund and to be allowed to fundraise specifically for the purpose of keeping the long-term care facility open.
We have repeatedly been denied both of these requests.
We believe that the MPTF Board members are good and moral people who may’ve been misled into making this decision. We believe that financial misconduct or incompetence may have occurred, and that the MPTF Board may’ve been misled by administrators. These suspicions are based on these facts:
‘ This nursing home is not free to residents. Residents, families and insurers pay close to $130,000 a year to live there.
‘ The four top Administrators are among the highest paid in the nursing home industry, earning almost $2 million a year, plus bonuses.
‘ The land the Home sits on is already owned by the MPTF and so is the building itself.
‘ The MPTF recently completed construction of several new buildings on the campus, including state-of-the-art new administrative offices, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, while the long-term care facility remained unimproved.
‘ In advance of their surprise closure announcement, the MPTF reduced admissions at the Home. At its full capacity of 195 residents, the Home would make $14 million a year, more than enough to offset deficits. As of now, there are only 84 residents remaining.
‘ The MPTF was created in response to the Depression and has survived economic downturns before without abandoning the long-term care facility.
‘ The MPTF decision was bolstered by a financial report rubber-stamped by consultants they hired themselves.
‘ The MPTF’s expected decrease in fundraising hasn’t occurred, though they are still refusing to accept donations earmarked specifically for the long-term care facility.
So what was behind this decision to close this historic and world-class nursing home? We honestly have no idea.
But we need your help. We’re not asking for money, since, as we’ve stated, the MPTF is refusing to accept donations to keep the nursing home open.
What we would like is to respectfully request that you reconsider your announced participation in the MPTF sponsored event ‘The 3rd Annual The Evening Before,’ Saturday, September 19th, 2009, at The Lawn at Century Park until the Fund immediately reverses its closure decision, allows donations directly to save the long-term care facility, and honors our Industry’s request for an independent audit of the MTPF and all its related entities. As long-time donors to this non-profit charity, we believe you’ll join us in calling for that necessary transparency.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 818-481-3536 for more information, if you have questions, or would like to tour this historic home. Our website is www.savingthelivesofourown.org <http://www.savingthelivesofourown.org> , and you can also sign our petition at www.tinyurl.com/mptfhome <http://www.tinyurl.com/mptfhome> .
Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
Saving the Lives of Our Own