Michelle Stafford (Phyllis, YOUNG AND RESTLESS) is one actress always willing to lend her name to a good cause. That’s why she couldn’t resist becoming involved with Project Cuddle, an organization that saves abandoned babies and reaches out to troubled pregnant women. Debbe Magnusen, the organization’s founder, has fostered more than 30 drug-exposed babies, eventually adopting five into her own family.
Soap Opera Weekly: How did you get involved with Project Cuddle?
Michelle Stafford: I met Debbe at a party. We started talking, and I thought she was so phenomenal. She’s really an extraordinary lady. She told this story about a young girl being afraid to tell people she was pregnant. She ended up killing her baby and putting it in a Dumpster. If that’s going on in your life, [before you get to that point], you call Debbe, no questions asked. She’ll place your child. It’s all done aboveboard, and it’s legal. She basically saves your baby for you.
Weekly: And you wanted to do what you could to help?
Stafford: Yes. I’ve been working with Debbe, fund-raising and introducing her to legislators that I’d dealt with through my work with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. Because this is a human rights issue, too.
Weekly: What is your goal?
Stafford: My goal is to help Debbe and to help change legislation; to stop women from [harming their babies], and to let them know there’s a way to get help.
Weekly: What kind of legislation are you talking about?
Stafford: There is some really odd legislation in this country. In some areas, like Los Angeles, you can leave your baby at a fire department. But if you’re caught doing that in Orange County, you will be arrested and put in jail. It’s crazy. A woman who is actually trying to save her baby will be arrested for it. The laws are just so crazy.
Weekly: Have you gotten to meet any of the children Debbe has helped to save?
Stafford: Oh, yeah, at the big fund-raiser that she organizes every January. A lot of the parents and the rescue families are there, and they bring their kids. They’ve adopted these children. It’s very cool to see them.
Weekly: That must really make your work with the organization gratifying, to see these children placed in a happy home.
Stafford: Oh, it is, for sure. It’s a nice feeling to see these children having a chance at a happy life, when it could have gone another way. And Debbe is the reason it didn’t. It’s really cool.
Weekly: When is Project Cuddle’s next fund-raiser?
Stafford: There’s one in November in New York. I’m going to try to make it. I always donate a tour of [the] Y&R [sets]. I’m actually working with Debbe to do an event to mix in soap opera. We don’t do a lot of things as a community. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a party at my house with all the women of daytime? I could get them up to speed about what Debbe does. Everybody could donate 100 bucks. That would be great!