Newman's Own Gift to Charity: $150 Mil

11/11/2003 at 10:30 AM EST

Paul Newman never seems to close his checkbook.

Last week, the "Cool Hand Luke" and "Road to Perdition" star, 78, sent a personal check for an unreported amount to Kansas's Franklin Community Council Inc., after the town was all but leveled by a tornado earlier this year, reports the Associated Press.

And on Monday, the star's publicist announced, Newman sent $100,000 to the Los Angeles Times/KTLA Fire Relief Fund, to support the victims of the recent fires that swept through Southern California, claiming 21 lives, more than 3,400 homes and charring nearly 750,000 acres.

This most recent gift marks a total of $150 million in charitable gifts Newman has made thanks to profits generated by his food company, Newman's Own. All profits and royalties (after taxes) from his salad dressing and other edibles go directly to educational and charitable organizations, says the rep.

In regard to his Kansas gift, "We decided that it would be best not to give the exact figure, but it was a lovely, generous amount," resident Phyllis Bitner said, as quoted by AP. "We haven't earmarked the money yet for a specific project, but it will go a long way toward something."

In the current issue of Time magazine (which, like PEOPLE, is part of Time Warner), Newman is quoted in an excerpt from his new book, "Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good," cowritten with A.E. Hotchner.

In it, he recalls the problems getting his Newman's Own food company off the ground back in 1982.

"No, offense, Mr. Newman," one money person told him, "but just because (the public) liked you as Butch Cassidy doesn't mean they'll like your salad dressing."

Eleven years and $150 million to charity later, that money person was wrong.

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