Mom teaches son the basics of charity

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Ethan Hawke learned to embrace charity from his mother, Leslie Hawke.

“She’s a real Eleanor Roosevelt type,” says the actor. When his 1989 film “Dead Poets Society” became a hit, Mom wanted her son to donate some of his income to the Doe Fund.

“That’s the first charity I really learned about,” recalls Hawke. “The Doe Fund provides transitional housing and training for homeless guys, guys getting out of jail, guys getting off drugs — guys who want to change their lives.”

The Doe Fund, with three facilities in New York City and one in Philadelphia, strives to break the cycles of homelessness, addiction and criminal recidivism by providing those without homes and the formerly incarcerated a place to live, food, vocational training and paid work.

“They also help them get back in touch with their families. That’s a big source of relapse,” Hawke points out. “Most of the guys come from state prisons. Some prisons will give the guys a bus ticket, but some will drop them off on a street corner in the middle of the night. Some will just open the door and let them walk out. Everybody they knew was a criminal. What do they think is going to happen?”

When Hawke visited one of the Doe Fund’s facilities, “I realized that men and women have been struggling to get along for eternity. You think your situation is so unique, but we have so much to learn from each other. I was really humbled by what these guys have to recover from.”

Brendon Ocasio is just one graduate of the Doe Fund. Ocasio, 43, started drinking when he was 16 years old, but with the help of the fund, he quit drinking on May 11, 2007.

“I got food, bed and a locker. That first week I worked waxing floors,” he recalls. “In the program, I was able to accomplish in one month what I wasn’t able to accomplish in 17 years. I got my driver’s license, and now I’m an animal rescue officer for New York.”

For more information, visit www.doe.org.

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