Invest in others 2019
Making a difference, doing a world of good
Financial advisers working hard to improve the lives of others and finding new purpose along the way
Five financial advisers won leadership awards at the 13th annual Invest in Others Awards Gala on Thursday for their many hours of volunteering and other philanthropic efforts. Presented by the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation, this award program recognized advisers in five categories.
Winners received $45,000 for their particular charity and the 10 finalists received $15,000 awards. The Lifetime Achievement Award winner received $55,000 to donate to his charity.
For the second year, the organization also gave $1,000 awards to 60 honorable mentions.
"This evening is a rare opportunity to bring the industry together to celebrate the good that advisers are doing each and every day in their communities," said Megan McAuley, executive director and president of the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation. "We're thrilled to recognize the incredible charitable work of this year's honorees and support their charities with substantial award donations."
More than 600 financial professionals and guests attended the awards event in Boston.
Reflecting the Marines' motto of “Semper Fi,” or “always faithful,” former Marine Eric Candelori has been actively supporting the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation for more than 40 years. As a teenager, he helped his father, also a former Marine, work on volunteer projects for the same foundation.
The nonprofit provides college scholarships, based only on financial need, to the children of any Marine in active service or honorably discharged. The assistance fills a significant budgetary void for military families, as the current GI Bill is generally only enough to help one family member. The foundation disburses some $8 million per year to about 2,300 recipients.
In 1995, the younger Mr. Candelori, senior vice president with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Tysons Corner, Va., joined the foundation's board and soon made his mark, setting up a business plan in 1998 to create a $100 million endowment. The organization is on track to reach this goal by 2021 and he is still on the board.
“So many charities don't have all the pieces they need,” he said. “Namely, a worthy cause, a business plan and the right people with the drive, the skills and the passion.”
Growing up in a lower-middle-class family in a largely minority town, Andy Schwartz realized early on that your future is tied to your zip code.
“You can have similar high schools just 15 miles apart and have a totally different educational experience at each one,” he said.
With that in mind, Mr. Schwartz, principal with Bleakley Financial Group in Fairfield, N.J., embraced the mission of NJ SEEDS, a nonprofit that provides enrichment programs to high-potential, low-income inner city students across northern New Jersey to help them access private school education and win acceptance to highly competitive colleges and universities. He has served on the board for 23 years.
The organization has three main components:
• Scholars, which helps seventh graders, many of whom continue on to top-rated private schools on full scholarship.
• Young Scholars, which helps fifth graders enter private schools.
• College Scholars, which helps public school juniors enter top-tier colleges.
The young people are amazingly well-received at the elite schools and thrive, Mr. Schwartz said.
“The schools are interested in diversity, and kids today want to be around kids who are different,” he said. “And our kids are very interesting on their own. They have different life experiences.”
Perhaps starting a family tradition, Fred Taylor, president and co-founder of Northstar Investment Advisors in Denver, has spent 20 years on the board of the Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation, a charity co-founded by his father in 1978.
The nonprofit hospital has had a tremendous impact on three generations of the Taylors, having saved the life of the younger Mr. Taylor's 7-year-old son when the child had a potentially fatal brain aneurysm 22 years ago. Mr. Taylor now chairs the board of the foundation, which fundraises for research, special projects and endowment funds for the nonprofit, regional specialty hospital— one of the top 10 in the country. In this capacity, he also represents the foundation on the hospital's management and health system boards.
The Taylor family was lucky to have such a resource in their backyard.
“Medicine for children is very different than medicine for adults,” Mr. Taylor said. “Their organs are smaller, their temperaments are different. They require different equipment and different specialists.”
Over the past two decades, he has grown the hospital's endowment from $15 million to $1.3 billion, while overseeing a successful fundraising campaign to replace the old hospital complex with a new one.
“I feel good giving back to a place that saved my son's life,” he said. “It's visceral.”
Bivona Child Advocacy Center is a one-stop, stand-alone nonprofit that services the million-person metro area of Rochester, N.Y. The statistics about its clients are sobering. It serves about 2,000 children a year, most of whom have been sexually abused.
The center, which houses 23 partner organizations under one roof, receives referrals from parents, schools, law enforcement and doctors. The children, accompanied by a victim's advocate, are shepherded through a process that includes a forensic interview and medical and mental health evaluations. Follow-up services are provided as required.
“There used to be multiple interviews,” said Wayne F. Holly, president and chairman of Sage Rutty & Co. in Rochester and chairman of the Bivona board. “But the goal is to lessen the trauma, to just tell the story once, so the healing process can start sooner and they don't have to relive the event.”
These types of centers are becoming more and more common as people are more willing to talk about childhood sexual abuse, he said.
“We can't look the other way or pretend it's not happening,” Mr. Holly said. “We are taking the conversation out of the shadows and into the public so that we can deal with it. We need to take care of the children.”
Life Remodeled is a nonprofit focused on renovating and revitalizing inner-city Detroit, one neighborhood at a time. The organization's signature event is its annual six-day work program, during which 10,000 volunteers — adults and youngsters alike — work on several blocks each day, cleaning up streets, boarding up houses, landscaping, repairing individual homes and more, according to the wishes of the residents.
Kevin Nast, president of NastGroup Financial in Northville, Mich., has volunteered with the organization for the past five years, taking on the massive job of coordinating volunteer transportation during the event, along with doing fundraising and other volunteer activities throughout the year.
In the course of its repair activities, the charity took on the renovation of a vacant public school to convert it into a community center that provides local residents with access to a gym and an auditorium and houses businesses and nonprofits that promote education, workforce development and entrepreneurism.
Life Remodeled has had a strong impact on Mr. Nast's life, giving him the opportunity to work directly with people in the inner city.
“There's been a tremendous racial divide, but finally we all can agree on one thing,” he said. “We want a healed and unified Detroit.”
Not only has Brock Moseley served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles for 17 years, he was a “little brother” with the program from ages eight to 18. Mr. Moseley, now the chairman of the organization's board, is founder of Miracle Mile Advisors in Los Angeles.
Raised by a single mother and grandmother, Mr. Moseley appreciated having a big brother with whom to play basketball and attend sporting events and talk to about life and careers. Mr. Moseley even followed in his big brother's footsteps and entered the financial industry. They have stayed in touch through the decades.
In 2015, Miracle Mile was the first firm in the area to institute a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program in a small-business workplace. High school students visit the office monthly to participate in facilitated discussions and spend time with individual mentors.
Mr. Moseley's childhood experience has influenced his practice, which has a strong emphasis on mentoring, whether it's supervisor to employee or peer-to-peer.
“I've always understood the importance of mentoring, of being supported and loved,” he said. “You feel 'I must be important enough to spend time with,' which makes you start to see yourself differently and take pride in what you do and work at your highest potential.”
Rugby might not seem like a logical choice to introduce to inner city schools in America, but unlike many other sports, it requires almost nothing in the way of equipment, said Michael Deutsch, vice president at United Capital, a Goldman Sachs company, and board chairman of Memphis Inner City Rugby.
“It's a sport that is under-represented by African-American and Latino kids, but once you're in the game, everyone is the same,” he said. “And when you step on that field, everything you go through on a day-to-day basis, you leave on the sidelines.”
The program annually serves about 200 boys and girls, from elementary school through high school, at charter schools with few resources. It provides certified coaches, transportation, clothing and nutrition, along with academic tutoring and leadership training for kids.
The speed of success of the seven-year-old program has been surprising, Mr. Deutsch said. Not only have 94% of graduating participants gone on to continue their education, but after only two years in existence, the girls' team has started winning state championships.
“It's about creating opportunities for our kids to succeed,” he said. “It doesn't take much: just a ball and a field and people who care”.
The Greater Newark Conservancy has been part of Rachel Schwarz's life since she was a teenager accompanying her parents to events in New Jersey's largest city.
Ms. Schwarz, vice president of investments at UBS Financial Services Inc., is currently chairwoman of the GNC's development committee of the environment, which is also focused on social services.
It serves about 10,000 people annually, from young children through the elderly, via programming such as urban farming, environmental education, prisoner reentry, job training, senior nutrition and socialization, and youth leadership development.
She sees her role as serving to reconnect Newark with the large number of ex-Newark residents like herself, now living in the suburbs, with ties to the city going back generations.
“My family all grew up in Newark,” she said. “I don't want to abandon it.”
One of her major accomplishments was to secure a large matching grant for the renovation of a downtown former synagogue built in 1884 into a community center.
One of her major accomplishments was to secure a large matching grant for the renovation of a downtown former synagogue built in 1884 into a community center.
Suicide in America is a growing concern, said Lawrence Sprung, president and founder of Mitlin Financial Inc. in Hauppauge, N.Y., and a member of the national board of directors of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Mr. Sprung has been involved in suicide prevention since his wife's brother took his own life 15 years ago.
Already the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the rate of suicide is increasing, growing from 11.75 per 100,000 people in 2009, to 14 in 2017. In that year, more than 47,000 people committed suicide.
The foundation concentrates on four areas: funding scientific research studies, public advocacy, education and direct “loss and healing” services such as survivor outreach by volunteers who have been through the same experience.
On the education front, Mr. Sprung was instrumental in funding the “Seize the Awkward” campaign, a program to help college students reach out to peers who may be struggling with mental health issues.
It can be hard to broach the subject, but it's necessary, said Mr. Sprung.
“You have to be willing to lose the friendship in order to save a life,” he said. “Let them know you care.”
“It's overwhelming, as hard as it is. We're not saving the world, but we have the capacity to save these people — one at a time,” said Mike Mayernick, wealth management adviser with Northwestern Mutual in Nashville, Tenn. He is co-founder, along with his wife Suzanne, of Love One International, which serves about 6,000 people a year in the impoverished Masindi District of Uganda, the region from which they adopted their daughter 10 years ago.
The charity provides medical care, food distribution, school tuition and training in best practices in farming and child care in order to encourage empowerment and sustainability. Its “recovery center,” located one to two hours away from the remote area's villages, has 15 beds for patients who need to be nursed back to health, whether they're recovering from a hospital stay or are being treated for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV or severe malnutrition. The Mayernicks are fundraising to build a bigger center that can serve 100 people.
“We are trying to save lives — it's so foreign to people in the U.S.,” Mr. Mayernick said. “There are literally people dying from things that can be prevented.”
We don't think about the debilitating impact of hearing loss in people because there's no pain and no blood,” said Richard Brown, CEO of JNBA Financial Advisors in Minneapolis. Mr. Brown is also the president and board chair of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which provides free hearing aids and hearing health programs to 300,000 hearing-impaired individuals a year, both domestically and overseas.
Since he took the charity's helm six years ago, Mr. Brown's leadership has not only enabled the charity to raise $127 million over the past three years, but also dramatically grow its overseas operations. New initiatives include:
• Establishing “AfterCare” programs in 64 countries that train local people to provide essential services to maintain hearing aids, such as battery replacement, repair and adjustments.
• Building a school in Zambia in 2015 to train students to become hearing-instrument specialists. The school has produced 41 graduates from 15 countries, and its graduates often serve as professionals in this field in their respective nations.
• Consulting with countries to help them develop national hearing-health policies.
How did Mr. Brown accomplish so much in such a short time?
“I listened to the [charity] founders' vision with the idea that it could be accomplished,” he said. “Listening with optimism takes away the barriers.”
“It's humbling to go from abundance to a significant lack of basic needs,” said Matt MacLean, private wealth adviser with Affirm Weath Advisors in Peoria, Ariz., and founder of Quenched, a nonprofit that brings clean water to villages in Nepal and India.
Since its inception five years ago, the charity has dug more than 300 wells in more than 100 towns, impacting some 26,700 people living in extreme poverty. The wells serve from five to 100-plus families, who formerly had to rely on rivers and streams, often at great distances from their homes.
Stateside, Mr. MacLean fundraises and oversees the group's operations, working through several full-time staff people on location who coordinate projects with the help of local church networks. He visits the project sites once a year.
“The hardest thing is realizing that I couldn't meet all their needs,” he said. “One of the reasons we decided to focus on water was because it meets an ongoing need. The wells allow people to be more productive by not spending time and energy seeking water. Instead, they can go to work or school.”
It's all about continually taking things to the next level for David A. Pickler, president and CEO of Pickler Wealth Advisors in Collierville, Tenn.
Starting as a local PTA member, Mr. Pickler moved on to serve on the local school board, followed by stints on state and national school board associations. Inspired by the knowledge and contacts he'd gained through the years, he decided to establish the American Public Education Foundation to develop an educational model to replicate across the country.
Mr. Pickler took this step to address a lack of accountability and responsibility among parents, business leaders, educational leaders — and students themselves — to demand quality education with high standards, he said.
The foundation works currently with high schools in two local school districts and has two main focuses:
• Teaching and advocating for financial literacy.
• Bringing together local governments, chambers of commerce, community colleges and public schools to foster workforce development.
“There's no greater reward than bringing people together with a shared vision and giving them tools to empower them,” Mr. Pickler said. “It's the power of the possible.”
Inspired by a news report about a similar operation, Dan Hintz and wife, Nancy, founded the nonprofit Million Meal Movement in 2007, which mobilizes 10,000 volunteers to pack 2 million dry meal mixes that feed 320,000 people a year in Indiana.
The vacuum-sealed packages cost just 27 cents each and are comprised of vitamins and minerals, dried vegetables, soy protein and rice. They provide badly needed protein, scarce in food pantries.
“The packing could be done by machine,” said Mr. Hintz, vice president and wealth manager with UBS Financial Services in Indianapolis, Ind., “but it's the human element that's important. It's part of how we grow and retain our humanity. We roll up our sleeves and make food for neighbors who are suffering.”
The charity holds smaller packing events through the year and one marathon event that yields 1 million packets.
Volunteers come from more than 50 local companies, along with schools and universities.
Almost 100% of Million Meal's financial support comes from corporate grants.
The Hintzes especially want to inspire children to volunteer.
“We want to teach children that there's a greater need outside of their lives ... and that they can be part of the solution,” he said.
Eleven years after its inception, Kids Aid is still in business and, unfortunately, busier than ever.
The nonprofit provides weekend and summer food to 2,000 students in more than 50 schools (including preschool and a university) in the Grand Junction, Colo., region. More than 50% of students in the area, about 9,000, qualify for free or reduced lunches.
“This is a silent problem,” said charity founder Mike Berry, senior partner with Legacy Wealth Management. “Our biggest concern is how we can reach more kids.”
Kids Aid distributes about four tons of food every week, assisted by 130 volunteers. Mr. Berry shared some lessons on starting a nonprofit and keeping it going.
“Don't talk yourself out of doing something,” he said. “It's not always going to be smooth and easy, but don't let setbacks stop you.”
Finally, recognize when it's time for the founder to step aside.
“It's important to prevent tunnel vision. New people mean new ideas,” he said. “Ultimately, it's not mine; it's the community's.”