Sandra Bullock Donates to Hurricane Katrina Survivors, Moves to New Orleans

Actress Sandra Bullock purchases home in New Orleans' Garden District

by Rebecca Mowbray, The Times-Picayune

Actress Sandra Bullock, who has donated generously to Warren Easton Senior High School since Hurricane Katrina, has purchased a historic home in the Garden District from entrepreneur John Russell Lee Sr., whose I CAN Learn educational software was at the center of the Mose Jefferson trial.

The ornate 6,000 square-foot home, replete with gables and iron-work, is near properties owned by actors John Goodman and Nicolas Cage and the home previously owned by writer Anne Rice. It sold in June for $2.25 million in cash to Big Easy Bebe LLC, which was incorporated a few days earlier by John Chamblee, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, who has represented Bullock in other real estate transactions. Chamblee declined to discuss anything about the corporation.

Since Hurricane Katrina, Bullock has become a major patron of Warren Easton, the first public high school for boys in Louisiana. The school, which dates to 1845 and survived going co-ed and desegregating, was having trouble opening after Hurricane Katrina because the storm caused $4 million in damages at the brick Canal Street building where it has operated since 1913.

Mardi Gras publisher and Warren Easton alumnus Arthur Hardy, who serves on the charter foundation's board, said Bullock learned of the school's needs from a lawyer in Rex who was working with Warren Easton through the Mardi Gras krewe's public school philanthropic efforts and who had a mutual acquaintance with the actress.

Since then, Bullock has donated several hundred thousand dollars to the school, helping to renovate the school's auditorium, buying new Fighting Eagle band uniforms, chipping in for scholarships and helping to fund a new health clinic. "She liked what she heard. That's how it all started," Hardy said.

In being inducted into Warren Easton's hall of fame in May, shortly before buying the house,  Bullock said she was "embarrassed" by the federal government's slow response after Katrina and felt compelled to help the city.

Bullock has called her donations to Warren Easton "the best investment I ever made." She said she wanted to invest in a school, and Easton's history and architecture caught her attention. "This school is an architectural gem. It gives the kids a sense of pride."


Her husband, Jesse James, who hosted the Discovery Channel reality show Monster Garage, where teams of people with fabricating experience would modify vehicles into new forms, has also gotten involved in the New Orleans philanthropic spirit.

James, a frequent celebrity guest at Steel Pony Express motorcycle gatherings in New Orleans, wants to open a metal shop in New Orleans where kids can learn art and trade skills that will earn them $20-an hour jobs. James donated an autographed, desk-sized, limited-edition tool box from his West Coast Choppers bike business to a silent auction hosted by Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Co. last month, and raised $6,850 for Warren Easton.

Other notable charitable tidbits:

  • When the September 11th, 2001 attacks occurred, Bullock was staying at the Soho Grand Hotel  - during filming of "Two Weeks Notice" -, twelve blocks from the World Trade Center. She saw the attacks from her hotel bedroom window and went to a nearby hospital to offer help. As all phone lines in New York City were down, she spent the rest of the day using her Palm Pilot to send e-mails on behalf of patients wanting to contact their families.

  • In the days after Hurricane Katrina, she was often seen at the Austin convention center, helping evacuees get food, clothing and shelter.
  • Donated $1 million to the American Red Cross to help the relief efforts following the September 11 attacks
  • Donated $1 million to the American Red Cross to help the relief efforts following the Indonesian Tsunami in 2004
  • Donated $1 million to the American Red Cross to help the relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005
  • Adopts special-needs dogs without legs and contributes to animal rescue foundations

Plus, the answer to this Entertainment Lawyer Blind Item was revealed to be Sandra Bullock:

June 12, 2009 - Kindness - This A-list actress, who used to be the highest paid actress in Hollywood, donated her entire paycheck from a recent movie to four different charities. It was the largest donation any of the four charities had ever received.