Be exactly where you need to be. Every penny counts. And remember, “Service (and personal giving) is the rent we pay to live.”
Profession: New York Regional Director of Development, Navy SEAL Foundation
Location: New York, New York
What’s your first memory of philanthropy?:
Coins and philanthropy, in my mind, are one and the same and have been for a long time. As a little kid, I remember loving fountains. When my mom wasn’t watching me, I started picking up the coins. I knew that people made wishes with those coins. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if they could really do some good with those coins…with those wishes.” These coins, plus more, could make wishes come true. Years later, I collected money for the MDA Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. I went house to house, neighborhood to neighborhood, with a large coffee can decorated for MDA, and just asked people to make a contribution. Friends, family, neighbors and people I did not know generously filled the can. I went to the Telethon with approximately $400 worth of coins. It was on the news!
What’s your role in the philanthropic community?:
I’m the first New York Regional Director of Development for the Navy SEAL Foundation. As a Veteran, it is a huge honor to be associated with an organization that takes care of the immediate and long term needs of the Naval Special Warfare Community and its families. Moreover, as a former Naval Intelligence Officer for SEAL Team TWO, the cause is personal, compelling and all the more meaningful. Fundraising for the Navy SEAL Foundation and educating people about its work is my role in the philanthropic community.
Why do you work in the nonprofit world?:
My work in the nonprofit world started because service above self is important to me. As an Eagle Scout and as a Veteran, it is just part of my DNA. I find extraordinary fulfillment as a nonprofit professional, as this path makes me a better person knowing I am following my calling. With a business background, I think it is extremely important that nonprofit organizations are run well and can sustain themselves while not duplicating something already being done. In this world, I make a difference.
Who inspires you to be philanthropic?:
My parents. They modeled acts of chesed – tzedakah. Being involved in civic organizations, they really were and are great role models for my sisters and me, teaching us to give of ourselves in order to help others. It is what we do!
What motivates you to give?:
During the month following open heart surgery in 2012, as part of my physical therapy, my mom and I would get up every morning before 6AM to walk in the neighborhood. But we did more than walk. We saved the earthworms that had been washed into the street by the sprinklers or by the rain during the night. We had to save them before the sun came out! We picked them up and put them back in the yard, saving as many as we could. We saved or re-saved almost 300 worms, for we counted them daily. As we saved them, I wondered, “Who is saving the earthworms?” Of course, this is a metaphor. There are people who cannot help themselves, so we all have to do our part to help them. Individually, we can not help everyone; but by doing our part as a collective community, we can make a difference in the lives of many. So what motivates me to give? Something I learned a long time ago: “He who saves one life, saves the world.”
Where do you give – time and money?:
Knowing the impact that every dollar given to UJA-Federation of New York and Jewish Federations of North America makes, I support it with my time and money — helping the young and the old in the New York area, Israel and other places around the world, who at this time in their lives need a boost. In addition, I am active with Park Avenue Synagogue, Boy Scouts of America, Texas A&M University, Greene Family Camp and the Jewish Welfare Board. That is where I try to spend my time outside of work, which means that whether I am at work or not, my life is devoted to tikkun olam (service).
If you could start your own charity, what would it be?:
That is a question I have thought about a lot! As a Veteran who served as a Jewish lay leader on Active Duty, I was focused on serving the broader Jewish community of Servicemen/women and their families wherever I was stationed or deployed. And now, I want to create a vehicle for involving those who served far from home to now serve in Jewish communities across North America. The leadership and service potential of these human resources is far reaching! That would be the mission of my nonprofit.
What advice do you do you have for the best way for people to give?:
Think back to the formidable experiences you have had from every stage of your life until now. Remember who you are and from where you come. Give back to others. Do your part. In fact, do more! Pay it forward. Set an example. Recognize your passion and support it. Be exactly where you need to be. Every penny counts. And remember, “Service (and personal giving) is the rent we pay to live.”