Whitney Houston believed in using her success to help those less fortunate, and she did much of her humanitarian work out of the spotlight, visiting children in hospitals, sending personal notes to the charities that she helped, and organizing Christmas parties for homeless children. She supported many charitable organizations, some of which are listed below.
She formed The Whitney Houston Foundation for Children in 1989. During its operation, the WHFC helped sick and homeless children, worked toward the prevention of child abuse, taught children to read, built inner city parks and playgrounds, and provided college scholarships, including a scholarship at The Julliard School.
Whitney continued her charitable works with her sister-in-law, Patricia Houston, who started a nonprofit organization in 2007 called Teen Summit. Teen Summit was formed to rebuild the lives of teens and young adults. Whitney attended the annual event and also helped Pat with Celebrity Consignment, a shop in Shelby, North Carolina which also benefits Teen Summit. Whitney not only donated clothes to the shop but was instrumental in getting celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, Dionne Warwick, Diane Sawyer and others to donate as well. Teen Summit was able to open its first academy on January 26, 2013.
In 2020, The Whitney E. Houston Legacy Foundation was formed as a continuation of Whitney’s journey to Rebuild lives, Restore self-esteem and Repair images through grassroots programs and initiatives for the young. Its mission is to inspire youth, create positive opportunities and empower them to succeed beyond their expectations, thus creating a lasting solution to their challenges and hopes of improving their lives in a positive way.
AIDS Project Los Angeles
Whitney lost friends and colleagues to AIDS, and helped to raise money for this and other organizations. In one example, while on concert tour in South America in 1994, Whitney left her tour and flew to Los Angeles to perform in the “Commitment to Life” AIDS Benefit, and then immediately flew back to resume her tour.
American Red Cross
Whitney donated all of her proceeds from the single and home video sales of her Super Bowl XXV rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” to benefit Gulf War troops and their families. The record company followed suit, and as a result, Whitney was elected a member of the American Red Cross Board of Directors in 1991.
Children’s Defense Fund
All of Whitney’s proceeds from her two “Classic Whitney” concerts in Washington, D.C., totaling more than a quarter of a million dollars, were donated to this charity.
Whitney supported a cyber petition by international debt relief campaign Jubilee 2000 to persuade world leaders to erase debt owed by 40 of the world’s poorest nations.
Deirdre O’Brien Child Advocacy Center
The Whitney Houston Foundation for Children contributed $40,000 for the construction of a medical examination room at the center, equipped with the latest forensic medical equipment to assist investigations of alleged child sexual abuse. Following the grant, the center named Whitney its first Child Advocate of the Year.
Emmanuel Cancer Foundation
Whitney was unable to attend a 1990 benefit held in her honor, so she turned it into a food drive to benefit this New Jersey children’s organization.
Feingold Center for Children
The Boston area center, formerly known as the National Birth Defects Center, named its Hearing & Language Disorder Clinic after Whitney due to her contributions.
Whitney donated enough to this Harlem-based charity that they were able to build a Learning & Recreation Center.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Whitney regularly attended the Foundation’s “Carousel of Hope” charity gala. She contributed to the organization so consistently that she was honored for her giving in 1996 with the Brass Ring Award.
To support the Foundation’s work to protect the world’s rainforests, Whitney made a surprise guest appearance at a 1994 benefit concert and performed three songs.
Ronald McDonald House Charities
Whitney contributed to a local chapter of this charity that the South Florida arm of this organization honored Whitney for her giving.
September 11, 2001
Whitney re-released “The Star Spangled Banner” charity single to benefit the New York Firefighters 9/11 Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Fraternal Order of Police following the terrorist attacks. Whitney waived her royalty rights to the single, which topped the U.S. sales charts in October 2001 and raised more than $1 million.
In the 1980s, Whitney refused to perform in then-Apartheid South Africa. The announcement that she would participate in the 1988 Freedomfest concert event in London (for a then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela) drew other artists and much media attention. In 1994 – post Apartheid – Whitney also toured in South Africa, giving concert proceeds to numerous children’s charities including two children’s museums, the President’s Trust Fund (for the freed Nelson Mandela), the Kagiso Trust and several orphanages.
Whitney performed in August 1987 at the Special Olympics opening ceremony, and donated her recording of “Do You Hear What I Hear” for the first A Very Special Christmas benefit album in 1989.
St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital
Founded by the late actor Danny Thomas, this hospital helps critically-ill children without asking for money from their parents or guardians. It is subsidized completely by charitable giving. Whitney gave so much to the hospital over the years that the founder’s daughter, Marlo Thomas, honored her at a charity banquet in 1994.
T.J. Martell Foundation
Whitney supported this foundation, which funds research for leukemia, cancer and AIDS.
United Negro College Fund
One of Whitney’s first gigs was a benefit concert for the UNCF. After she became famous, Whitney raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for the UNCF at a 1988 Madison Square Garden concert, and gave so consistently that she was honored by the organization with the Frederick D. Patterson Award.
University Hospital, Newark
The Newark, N.J.-based hospital named its Pediatric Special Care Unit after Whitney due to her contributions.