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Charlie Weingarten finds fresh ways to champion selfless acts of philanthropy

A member of a philanthropic family founded Explore.org to inspire selflessness and lifelong learning.

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After a month of intense study with Mr.Turk, Weingarten invited the three clergymen to go with him to the Holy Land. Only Turk could get away at the time.

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"It would be so easy for Charlie to be concerned with only himself," says Turk, "but instead he travels to find hidden treasures. He's open-minded – he has no angle. And he has a curiosity that's inspiring."

Turk says that Weingarten resists religious labels for himself. "He just wants to know. He's an explorer."

The documentary from that trip, "Travels with Jihad," is now part of Explore.org's "library of inspiration."

Award-winning chef Art Smith met Weingarten through Oprah Winfrey and found him to be a "bright young man." The two bonded as they talked about fatherhood, community, and paying it forward.

Later, Mr. Smith stopped to visit his new friend in L.A. Weingarten's then 2-year-old daughter, Lily Eve, wouldn't eat her dinner, so the famous chef bent down and popped a piece of broccoli into his mouth. Lily Eve immediately did the same. Smith explained that kids will eat what they see adults eat.

From that small act Common Threads was born, a project that teaches children about healthy eating.

"From one chance meeting – a little girl, a chef, a philanthropist – and one small piece of broccoli," Smith says, "now 6,000 kids a year get a free cooking lesson."

Giving doesn't mean you don't also take care of yourself, Weingarten says. You need to find the balance, the yin and yang.

Weingarten's world reflects that equilibrium. For example, his offices face the Pacific Ocean, providing a zillion-dollar view – but no sign announces his famous name. Inside, the furnishings are modest, yet state-of-the-art HD screens hang on the walls continuously running his latest video project, "Pearls of the Planet."

These live video feeds from around the world kicked off last year by showing polar bear migrations in Manitoba.

Weingarten says he always envisioned Explore.org as a place of trust, the opposite state of mind from what he calls ATD (Addicted to Drama) – which he sees as a disease. Explore.org is an antidote to ATD and "the big business of fear," he says.

Explore.org considers itself unique because it doesn't try to persuade visitors. People who go to the website make their own deep connections, Weingarten says.

You change the world when you change yourself, he says. "People are the same everywhere – everyone just wants to feel validated, respected, heard."

• For more, visit: Explore.org

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