Contributions and pledges to Hands Across America have topped $41 million, organizers said Thursday, while a review of expenses shows that costs are down considerably from earlier estimates.
The new figures, organizers said, suggest that their early goal of raising $50 million to aid hungry and homeless Americans may be within reach, and Hands officials have started preparing to distribute funds to selected aid groups beginning this fall.
"Income increases, and the expenses just keep coming down," said Hands organizer Ken Kragen in a telephone interview. "I've never seen anything like it."
According to Kragen and USA for Africa Executive Director Marty Rogol, more than $33 million had been received by Hands Across America as of Monday. Another $8 million had been received in pledges.
A month ago, contributions and pledges totaled slightly less than $28 million.
Kragen and Rogol also estimated that total expenses for putting on the May 25 mega-event that tried to link both coasts of the United States with a human chain of millions of people are unlikely to exceed $14 million. Early estimates had put that figure at about $17 million.
"Everything was happening so fast that we didn't have a chance to really look at the numbers until the last couple of weeks," Rogol said.
Rogol said that if the total take for the event reaches the hoped-for $50-million figure, then expenses will take only about 28% of the funds received--"right in the middle of the norm for putting on charity events."
The organizers also unveiled the names of members of a new 37-person Domestic Task Force that will advise the USA for Africa board on distributing funds to groups aiding the homeless and hungry. The geographically diverse advisory panel is made up of representatives from social service agencies, unions, political groups, businesses and academia.
Kragen said the advisory panel is scheduled to hold its first meeting July 22-23 in Los Angeles and will submit recommendations of aid recipients to the board of directors of USA for Africa, the foundation that organized the Hands Across America event.
Although the USA for Africa board is not scheduled to meet until early October, Kragen said, the first grants are likely to be made shortly after Labor Day with the bulk of the money distributed by Thanksgiving.
Members of Hands Across America Domestic Task Force volunteer advisory panel (whose expenses are covered by Hands Across America) are Larry Brown, Harvard Physician's Task Force; Mark Winne, Hartford Food System and Connecticut Coalition Against Hunger; Cheryl Rivers, Low Income Advocacy Council.
Bob Franks, New Jersey legislator; Diane Morales, deputy Manhattan (N.Y.) borough president; Pam Greene, Food for Survival food bank.
Frank Mont, United Steel Workers of America food bank; Marvin Smith, Over-the-Rhine Housing; Virginia Beverly, Maryland Food Committee.
Rims Barber, Mississippi Children's Defense Fund; Sophia Bracey-Harris, Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama and Black Women's Leadership and Economic Development Project; Robert Everett, Nashville (Tenn.) Communities Organized for Progress.
Jim Sheibel, St. Paul (Minn.) city councilman and Committee on Poverty and Homelessness for the League of Cities; Betty Banks, Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy; Charlie Jones, Food Justice Program.
Susan DeMarco, former staff member of Texas Department of Agriculture; Freddie Nixon, consultant; Velia Silva-Garcia, National Council of Churches.
Paul Carpino, LIGHT (a low-income grass-roots group); Tim Gaigo, Lakota Times newspaper; Lorraine Garcia, American Friends Service Committee.
John Driggs, Western Savings; Doris Bloch, Community Food Resources; Barbara Cross, West County (Contra Costa, Calif.) Community Mental Health Center.
Christine Pratt-Marsten, National Anti-Hunger Coalition; Jean Demaster, Burnside Projects; Wanda Michaelson, Idaho Hunger Action Council.
Marge Gates, Girls' Clubs of America; Ed Block, National Assn. of Community Action Agency Directors; Bob Greenstein, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Bill Howard, National Council of Churches; Billye Avery, National Black Women's Health Project; Ron Pollock, Villers Foundation; Barbara Gothard, Burger King; Susan Baker, advocate for the homeless; Lalo Delgado, poet; David Rush, Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.