November 17, 2010 12:00 PM

When Kathy Griffin traveled to Afghanistan for her first USO tour in 2003, she discovered a situation that was no laughing matter. While talking with the troops, “I couldn’t believe how many of the men and women had kids,” says the comedian, 50. “Then I learned what their salaries are, and I thought, ‘You’re getting shot at every day, and on top of it, you can’t afford toys for Christmas?’ ” Since then Griffin has organized an annual Toys for Tots holiday fund-raiser that collects and delivers gifts specifically for military families. What started out as a modest charity event at her L.A. home has morphed into a full-on gala that includes 400 guests, Marines in uniform who collect gifts (“And guilt people into writing checks!”) and one very proud hostess. “One year they had to send trucks back, there were so many toys to pick up,” says Griffin. “That was really great.”

STARS GIVE BACK

From giving gifts to dishing out dinners, these celebs make it a point to help those in need

MATT DAMON

The actor visited Ethiopia, where unsafe drinking water is a leading cause of child death. “As a father, this crisis really resonates with me-but it’s a solvable one,” says Damon, cofounder of the nonprofit Water.org.

Proceeds from water bottles-designed by Matt Damon’s brother Kyle-will go toward clean water projects. gift.water.org

ZOE SALDANA

“It is truly important to do as much as you can to help those in need,” says the actress, who served meals last Thanksgiving at the Los Angeles Mission.

JUSTIN LONG

The actor lent a hand and gave out gifts to homeless children at a Christmas event for Toys of Hope in New York City last December.

TORI SPELLING & DEAN McDERMOTT

The couple joined forces to wrap donated toys in Los Angeles for 2Family.org, a charity that connects mentors with disadvantaged youth.

NE-YO

Last year the singer visited his hometown Boys and Girls Club in Las Vegas to give out toys as part of his Compound Foundation’s Giving Tour. “Helping kids know they are loved, that’s happiness,” he says.

HOLLY MADISON

“I’m a kid at heart and I love picking out all the toys I would want if I were still little,” says the former Playboy playmate, who hosted her Holly Jolly Christmas toy drive last December in Nevada.

GLORIA ESTEFAN

The singer hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for local community friends and families at her Miami restaurant Bongos Cuban Cafe.

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