Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we chat with John Corbett and Bo Derek about their support for the American Hometown Heroes Initiative, a program dedicated to helping veterans find work after returning home from service. Independent Yellow Page publishers have banded together to launch the jobs initiative, which provides professional marketing advice and consultation to any returning veteran who would like to start a new business in their hometown.
John Corbett is an actor and country music singer. He is known for his work on "Northern Exposure" as Chris Stevens as well as his role as Aiden in "Sex and the City." He appeared on NBC’s "Parenthood" and he played the leading male role in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
Bo Derek is an actress and model who is best known for her role as Jenny Hanley in the 1979 film "10." Bo is the honorary chairperson for VA National Rehabilitation Special Events.
Interviews by Meg Zrini
Q: What is the American Home Town Heroes Initiative?
John: I got a buddy who I play guitar with, who owns an independent Yellow Pages in Santa Ynez and in Santa Barbara, Calif. He and his wife were having dinner one night and they were watching the news and seeing all these troops were coming home en masse. They thought, with the economy being how it is right now, what’s it going to be like for these guys and gals coming home trying to get a job? People who haven’t been away for years and years are having a tough time getting a job. Some of them have been working with the best technology that we have, on computers and repairing vehicles that are over there. They’re going to have a hard time coming back getting a job as a clerk in a grocery store because of how our economy is right now. So they came up with this plan.
Bo: It’s interesting because they have an independent Yellow Pages company and they came up with this idea to offer their marketing advice and advertising in their Yellow Page program free for a full year. I’ve been working with disabled veterans for over 10 years and I was encouraging them and introducing them to people at the VA (Veterans Affairs). They jumped all over it and it’s gone so quickly from the idea in concept from only about two and a half months ago, and it’s up online. A returning veteran wanting to start a new business will get for free, advice on advertising programs, business plans, everything that these people in the independent Yellow Page world have such experience in. They’ll help them create ads, business plans and they will get free ads for a full year in the Yellow Pages.
I think virtually all the independent Yellow Pages companies in the United States have signed on so quickly. It’s sort of that missing link between coming home with an idea to start up a new business and actually making it happen. And here’s this service that’s so vital, being provided and donated for free.
John: Eighty-four percent of us in the United States still use Yellow Pages or online Yellow Pages to find out where the local movie theater is or whatever else you want to find in there. I know I do.
I have to tell everybody that 100 percent of these Yellow Pages are made out of wood pulp and wood products so if you cut down a tree and make planks to make a desk out of it, all the end products in the pulp are used.
Bo: And recycled paper.
John: There’s such a controversy about the Yellow Pages. But dig this! They have a huge footprint. They reach 40,000 communities across the United States. Let’s say a guy comes back and he’s been working on vehicle repairs. He’s in his hometown Wheeling, West Virginia, which is where I’m from. He’s got an idea. He thinks I want to open an auto repair shop. How am I going to do that? He’s going to go to the American Hometown Heroes website; he’s going to punch in Wheeling, West Virginia. I did this yesterday, and five independent Yellow Pages are going to come up there. He’s going to call any one of these that are in his local area. This is open to all veterans by the way, just not returning vets.
More on charity and philanthropy
Susan Komen CEO's salary draws fire as donations drop
When the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced last week that it was canceling half of its 3-Day races next year, the charity blamed the economy. But it also acknowledged that its decision to stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood was a factor. Full story
- Soccer lover's fundraising trek ends in tragedy
- One Fund sets guidelines for marathon victims
- Pals, aged 6 and 7, raise $200,000 to fight rare disease
- Crowdfunding raises $2 million for Boston victims
- Susan Komen CEO's salary draws fire as donations drop
The VA offers all these numerous programs to help veterans who have business plans come up with the dough to start these businesses. And the Yellow Pages guys are going to help the veterans come up with a business plan so they can go get the money. But they’re going to get free ads for one year.
Bo: Check the website. I think the most important thing is to encourage veterans to go on the website to start using it and finding out what fits them right away.
Q: How did you guys both get involved?
John: Because my buddy Mike is my guitar player. He started this whole thing and we sit around on Friday nights and strum a few songs. He lives right down the road and he said, 'would you come onboard?' And Bo and I said, definitely. We do a lot of work with the veterans. We work with the disabled vets up in Aspen, Colo.
Bo: For over 10 years I’ve been the national honorary chairperson for Veterans Affairs' National Rehabilitation Special Events. There have six annual events for all our disabled veterans. It goes from the largest disabled ski clinic in the world, bigger than the Paralympics, to the wheelchair senior games.
I’ve been doing that for over 10 years so when I heard about this I immediately thought how useful and what a great service this independent Yellow Page association can provide.
Q: How has the initiative been working so far for the veterans?
John: It’s so premature but we’ve got 70,000 guys and gals coming back so the government needs our help in helping these guys. Everybody knows that the economy grows when new businesses grow. It’s a win-win.
These guys have to come back and use that training that they have. They have had the top training in whatever they did. What if a guy came back and said, 'I’m going to open an aircraft repair hanger?' The Yellow Pages are going to help him. They’re going to help him make a business plan so that he can go get financing. A lot of these guys don’t know what their options are when they come back. They start looking for a job and they find out how tough the economy is right now.
Q: That’s very exciting. Is there anything else you would like to add?
John: We’re excited. I’m excited. I want this to do well for our guys and gals.
Bo: It’s important to visit the website:American Hometown Heroes
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints