Cause Celeb

Can star power create social change?

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Celeb: Natalie Merchant, adult contemporary singer

Cause: Jamestown, N.Y., Boys and Girls Club

What she’s done: Monetary donations and personal appearances

What celeb gets: A chance to give back to her own hometown

What cause gets: Money for teen pregnancy prevention and academic assistance programs; a chance to let potentially bored and troubled kids meet a local girl made good.

Connection between celeb and cause: Unlike most celebrities and their causes, Merchant has an organic connection with Jamestown Boys and Girls Club: She was a child member of the Jamestown Girls Club (before it merged with the Boys Club), says the club’s executive director, Judy Moore.

Chance celeb will humiliate cause: Merchant’s earnest singing persona fits snugly with the club’s approach to life’s travails. She’s not apt to let them down.

What good came of this? Neither Merchant’s publicists nor Moore will reveal the precise amount of her donations (Merchant’s publicists don’t want it to be seen as a publicity ploy), but Moore said it was enough to hire a new counselor. In 1997, Jamestown made news as the place where one man allegedly infected nearly a dozen local teen girls with HIV. Only time will tell if another counselor can prevent a similar incident.

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