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Plan to Have Millions Link Arms Across America to Fight Hunger

October 22, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ The organizers of ″We Are the World″ announced a plan Tuesday to link up to 10 million people arm-in-arm from New York Harbor to the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles to raise money to fight poverty in America.

United Support of Artists for Africa, better known as USA for Africa, said the event could raise $50 million to $100 million against domestic hunger and homelessness.

The ″Hands Across America″ project would link people contributing at least $10 each along a 4,000-mile route through 17 states and Washington, D.C., on May 25, 1986.

The organizers said it would be the largest participatory charity event in history.

″This will demonstrate that when America stands together, we can accomplish anything,″ said Ken Kragen, president of the non-profit USA for Africa, which raised $33 million for famine relief projects in Africa through its hit multi-artist recording ″We are the World.″

″We have to mobilize Americans to make it very clear that the elimination of hunger and homelessness is what we’re after,″ he said.

″We have a crisis in this nation ... hunger in a land of plenty,″ said Dr. Larry Brown, executive director of Harvard’s Community Health Program and a member of USA for Africa’s medical task force.

He said 20 million Americans are hungry at some time each month and 34 million live in poverty.

″We have to respond to this epidemic,″ he said.

Between 6 million and 10 million people are expected to form a chain from Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan Island to an undetermined point at the Pacific near Los Angeles, Kragen said. In addition there will be a circle around the Statue of Liberty, which is on an island in the harbor. Participants are to simultaneously sing ″America the Beautiful″ and ″We are the World″ at 3 p.m. EDT on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Kragen said.

Details of the route and other logistics were not released.

Participants will contribute a minimum of $10 to guarantee a space in line. For a $25 contribution a participant will receive a visor and radio with the ″Hands Across America″ logo; and $35 or more will add a T-shirt. Participants will receive a map indicating a designated mile to report to.

Ten percent of the money raised from the project will go for emergency assistance; 50 percent will go for program support and development, and 40 percent will be used to promote self-sufficiency through farmers’ co-ops and community job programs, said Marty Rogol, executive director of USA for Africa.

The Coca-Cola Co. is helping to underwrite the anticipated $18.8 million cost, the organizers said, and other sponsors are being sought.

Brian Dyson, president of Coca-Cola USA, said the company had a ″significant commitment″ to the project but would not specify the financial arrangement.

The initial co-chairmen of ″Hands Across America″ are Bill Cosby, Kenny Rogers and Pete Rose. Other celebrities also have pledged their support.

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