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Viola Davis: 12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Never forgetting her roots and making a true difference in Rhode Island: actor Viola Davis. Photo: Chrisa Hickey/flickr.

Oscar-nominated actor Viola Davis may no longer live in Rhode Island, but the Central Falls native has made it her business to support her home town (and state) this year at a level that sets a very high standard for any celebrity... or any Rhode Islander, for that matter.

Davis' philanthropic good deeds for 2012 got a jump-start in November of 2011, when she sent a $1,000 check to the financially ailing Adams Memorial Library in Central Falls (following the $10,000 lead from the Alec Baldwin Foundation a month earlier).

In January of 2012, when Davis won two Screen Actors Guild Awards for her work in the move "The Help," she gave a special on-air shout-out to the kids in Central Falls and to the Segue Institute of Learning, a charter school in the city, exhorting them to "dream big and dream fierce." Later in the spring, Davis lost the Best Actress Oscar to Meryl Streep but inspired more support of Central Falls--Streep made a $10,000 donation to Segue Institute in honor of Davis, and then another to the Upward Bound scholarship fund based at Rhode Island College that Davis has endowed with her sister.

In May, when Davis returned to Rhode Island to receive Trinity Rep's 2012 Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement, she wasted no time doing some good while she was in town. Davis stepped up as the featured speaker at a $250-a-ticket scholarship fundraiser for Community Preparatory School. She was back again In October, this time to wow local crowds at a screening of her latest film, "Won't Back Down," at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, that raised funds for the drama club at Central Falls High School and the Segue Institute. Five hundred tickets were sold, raising about $15,000. To sweeten the deal, Davis donated 4 dresses for auction, including the two that she wore to the Academy Awards ceremonies (she has been twice nominated: for her role in "The Help" and in "Doubt.")

While in town, she also pitched in for another of her alma maters--Rhode Island College (Davis graduated in '88 and has an honorary doctorate from 2002). Davis volunteered to record a radio ad supporting the 2012 ballot question authorizing $50 million in improvements to the campus facilities.

It appears that this philanthropist is the biggest and fiercest dreamer, when it comes to Rhode Island and education, of them all.


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