Robin Quivers is best known as the persistent sidekick of radio shock jock Howard Stern, with a laugh is as infectious as her views are strong. But what most people don’t know about Robin is her lifelong commitment to service and philanthropy all over the world. Last month, the queen of talk show radio sat down with me for this exclusive look behind the scenes of her very public persona.
(credit: Jon Simon)
The Birth of 15
THIRSTY: So if you want to tell me a little about the 15 Foundation and how it got started that would be great!
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Robin Quivers: I suppose it started a few years ago with me when I joined the board of a fledgling charity and helped them to grow into a self-sustaining charity and realized what a wonderful thing that it is to use whatever you've gained in life to help grow an organization that gives something back. And after that organization became self-sustaining it was sort of like...well, what do I do now? For a couple of years I would just get together with a couple of friends and put together fundraisers and they would be fine...but they were a lot of hard work. In the last year I met a friend that had the same vision as I did about giving back. He shares the work and responsibilities equally. And after doing a couple of events with other organizations we decided that we liked doing this and that we could start our own foundation and find charities that we thought were doing the kind of work that we thought was wonderful and interesting and that more people needed to know about, so we started the 15 Foundation as a result.
Roots of Philanthropy
Robin feels the best way to be effective was to put together fun, dynamic events that would bring like-minded, charitable people together for exemplary causes. The foundation’s coming out party was held at the fabulous Gasenvoort Hotel in Miami, Florida. The star-studded event raised money for the Miami Beach Boys and Girls Club’s new game room. The resulting play exposed the jealous kid in me, as my own after school program was nothing more than a tattered knock hockey board, a deck of playing cards and a few net-less basketball hoops.
Ms. Quivers started her journey as a do-gooder in the seventies, first as a civilian nurse and then as a Captain in the United States Air Force. In an era where people often complain, “Oh the government, Oh the government”, Robin Quivers has combated these statements with successful actions. In April 2008 she talked with the gossiping matriarchs of The View about her work with a nonprofit called Healing Bridges, whose mission was to aid the war torn African youth of Eritrea.
THIRSTY: What do you hope to achieve in the upcoming months and years through charitable giving? I know you have a comedy show coming up, correct?
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Robin Quivers: Yes, actually we have had some really wonderful people step up and offer to help us out. Our goal is to of course grow 15 into a viable operation so that it had some funding itself and can be responsive in a number of ways. I’d like [15 to always be] in the business of creating fun events to raise awareness about worthwhile charities or people who have great ideas and want to grow a charity. And I would also like to be able to respond to emergencies from organizations that we like and think should be in the community. We like having events in a number of different places around the country. I'd like 15 to be a national organization and to get people involved in doing things like this in their own communities. Whenever we do it we partner with people in a local community to support charities in their area.
Every day for almost thirty years Ms. Quivers has sat within the crosshairs of salacious conversations between Howard and the some of the seediest people on the planet, but doesn’t forget to separate the entertainment elements of the daily riffs from the real world. She lives her life differently that what appears on the surface as sometimes crass.
When asked about a recent comment she made on the show about Precious star, Gabourey Sidibe, she was concerned about how her words were taken out of context. She confessed her thought that the actor was obese and needed some help. Robin’s years of frank talk easily revealed a horrid truth about today’s African American population.
“There is an epidemic of obesity occurring in the black community,” Quivers said, “especially among African-American women.” She goes on to say that we can’t be for the healthy living movement demonstrated by The First Lady, Michelle Obama, and at the same time congratulate Sidibe for being ‘enormous.’”
THIRSTY: How do you think your background as a radio personality has helped you as a philanthropist?
Robin Quivers: Well, it’s certainly given me the opportunity to speak out and access to media outlets that normally charities wouldn't have. Sometimes people just want to look up and see what I'm doing and what my interests are. I get to book myself on TV shows or get other people on TV and bring awareness to the things I'm interested in. That's an invaluable asset.
THIRSTY: How do you plan to use technology and social media to bring awareness to what you are doing?
Robin Quivers: I think social media is incredibly exciting, especially to small charities because everything is so expensive these days. If you can't afford advertising and you don't have media access, all of a sudden social networking provides you with an opportunity to get your name out there, raise awareness, and gain friends and influence at very little cost.
The 15 Foundation, which was co-founded by internationally acclaimed painter Brendan Murphy and uses social media in a very unique way. An ongoing online auction hosted by CharityBuzz.com allows participants to bid on or buy exciting VIP entertainment packages from Robin’s celebrity friends with all proceeds going to help high risk, low income girls in New Jersey gain admission to the world’s best independent schools and top colleges.
Robin Quivers and Brendan Murphy
(credit: Jon Simon)
One Night of Comedy
Just this past July, Quivers, Murphy and the hardworking staff at the foundation put on a fun filled comedy event at Caroline’s on Broadway in New York City. Fueled by the participation of comedians Paul Mooney, Gilbert Godfreid, Lisa Lampanelli, Dave Attel and James Walsh, recent giving has reached a feverish pitch. As some front row seats sold for thousands of dollars to help NJ SEEDS, I played the back wall, laughing uncontrollably from start to end. Those who know the work of Paul Mooney can imagine why the comedic legend was left to close the show.
THIRSTY: Canyou give a taste of what you have planned as far as the music festival is concerned?
Robin Quivers: We've started a year early because that is going to take a lot of planning. One of my favorite places in the world is Napa, California and it’s also a very generous place and there are also people in that area that need things. There are wonderful programs out there that could benefit from an infusion of money and attention. We have friends out there that are very connected and interested in growing events and we thought that one of the great pairings that haven't been done yet has been music and wine. So we are trying to create a music festival and we are right now in talks with everyone from wine and food sponsors to people that could help us with the music as well. But again it’s just in the beginning phases but it has become exciting. There has been some good interest.
After seeing Robin Quivers in person I am still struck with her breathtaking smile, soothing voice and fearless dedication to her mission. Robin Quivers is my new favorite philanthropist.