Launched in 2000 with a 20-house “blitz build,” Hollywood for Habitat for Humanity was founded by screenwriter-director Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”) to get industryites involved in building simple, affordable housing.
“It started for me shortly after ‘Braveheart,'” says Wallace. “It was my first feature film and it went on and got so much attention that I found myself personally in an alien land. It just seemed that I experienced idolatry. I felt so alienated from my own spirit that I felt if I didn’t do something that got me in touch with what really did matter, I was lost. In many ways, the creation of Hollywood for Habitat for Humanity was selfish for me. I needed something for myself.
“I discovered that there was no real organized connection between Habitat for Humanity and Hollywood. And I thought it was not only a great opportunity for Habitat for Humanity but it was a huge opportunity for Hollywood.
“I think in a way (the folks at Habitat for Humanity) were skeptical. I told them I wanted to create an organization in Hollywood, and they said to me, ‘We’ve had Hollywood people before who get fired up, say they want to do something and then nothing ever happens. This cannot be a lot of talk and a lot of noise and no houses get built. This has to be something in which we actually get something concrete done.’
“We created our own satellite organization. I built on their foundation. I can’t ask other people to do it unless I’m willing to do it. And immediately what I found was that it inspired everyone within my own company.
“There were actors that I’ve worked with who gave generously, asking for no recognition at all. And there were other people who would show up on the day with a camera crew and be filmed and gave nothing.
“It was much harder to start than I imagined it would be. And then, five years into it, it’s much bigger than I imagined it would be.
“Our first event was a 20-houses-in-two-weeks blitz-build and that got Habitat for Humanity excited as well as the Hollywood community.
“Something I believe, in fact I’m absolutely convinced of, is the most powerful way to give and to serve is to do it in secret. But to be a leader, the irony in it is that you have to stand up and take a public stand.
“I don’t go to every Hollywood Habitat for Humanity build with a sense of joy. I just leave with one. One of the ways that I describe Habitat for Humanity is that you get your hands dirty and your heart clean.”