March 26, 2001 12:00 PM

Reading to schoolchildren isn’t the kind of, activity normally associated with Hollywood headliners. Nor is giving free eye exams to at-risk youngsters or job-skills training to students with disabilities. But these are just a few of the philanthropic enterprises the Screen Actors Guild Foundation pursues every day. And they’re a big part of the reason PEOPLE decided to forge a partnership with the group, one that built on our existing relationship with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which harnesses the fund-raising power of the entertainment industry and distributes millions of dollars to deserving charitable organizations each year.

“In many respects, PEOPLE’s mission—with its stories and tremendous reach—is similar to ours,” says SAGF president Mitchell Ryan, a star of ABC’s Dharma & Greg. Adds EIF president and CEO Lisa Paulsen: “The magazine has been an extraordinary partner in helping us save lives.”

Five years ago PEOPLE and EIF began a tradition of cohosting a gala affair after the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards telecast (see Party story, page 130). This year, as we have every year since 1997, PEOPLE and EIF presented SAGF with a $60,000 check to support the foundation’s efforts. “It’s a thank you on many levels,” explains PEOPLE associate publisher Dan Osheyack, “to the SAG Foundation for the good work they do, to the actors who are doing good work both onscreen and behind the scenes and to the industry that we’ve covered for 27 years.”

Despite the finery on display, the mood during the postshow party, which was held in a tent in the parking lot of Los Angeles’s Shrine Exposition Center, was decidedly informal—Leelee Sobieski shared a tête-à-tête and a table with Russell Crowe, while Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes bonded with Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell, whom he had spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Maybe it was because the SAG Awards are the only citations given by actors to their peers. “These are celebrities honoring each other,” says Susan Ollinick, PEOPLE’S public affairs director. “They can relax and schmooze with their friends.”

Or make new ones. “This is my first time at the SAG Awards,” said Gladiator’s, Connie Nielsen. “And I got to meet Tom Hanks! His wife came over and introduced herself to me, so he came over too. He said, ‘It’s so nice to meet you,’ and I said, ‘No, it’s so nice to meet you’ ”

See, we told you it was a nice party. We’ll just have to do it again next year.

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