For Gene Epstein, life isn’t about what you take; it’s about what you give.
The Bucks County philanthropist absorbed the lesson through the examples of his family. He recalls, for instance, the generosity of his grandparents. They ran a small candy store in Philadelphia. There wasn’t much extra money to go around, but what there was, they altruistically donated.
“My grandparents were poor financially, but they were beyond wealthy when it came to their capacity for helping people,” said Epstein. “I can remember my grandmother telling me that as long as we have enough to pay the bills, then the rest we should use to take care of those in need.”
Embedded in his mind and heart, that philosophy has driven Epstein’s approach to giving, examples of which could fill a book given his decades of major success in business.
For sure, there’s another great example from this holiday season: Epstein, along with his wife Marlene, pledged to donate up to $50,000 to The Intelligencer’s and Bucks County Courier Times’ Give A Christmas funds.
Given the extra economic hardships caused this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gene and Marlene Epstein Humanitarian Fund pledged to match each donation of $500 or more up to $50,000 for all such donations received before Dec. 10.
“We get so much pleasure out of doing this, out of being able to help,” said Epstein. “What we love about Give A Christmas is that it’s so efficient. The donations are put directly to work to help the people who need it most.”
In just the first day after the pledge was made, The Intelligencer’s Give A Christmas received $3,000 in donations eligible for the match.
Indeed, donations from individuals, families, businesses and other organizations are what have fueled the Give A Christmas campaign through the first 32 holiday seasons of its existence.
Administered by the Bucks County Opportunity Council (BCOC), with 10% of the proceeds shared with the Keystone Opportunity Center, The Intelligencer’s Give A Christmas Fund provides financial assistance to individuals and families in need during the holidays. Money not dispersed during the holidays is used to support locals in need throughout the year.
Benefiting low-income people in Central and Upper Bucks County, as well as Eastern Montgomery County and the North Penn and Indian Valley communities, the fund provides a variety of assistance. That includes everything from help with buying gifts and groceries, to paying rent, medicine bills and utility expenses.
“Donors are the lifeblood of Give A Christmas,” said Joseph Cuozzo, director of development at the BCOC. “Large and small, we couldn’t do the program without donors and their contributions. It means a great deal to see donors step up year after year and make contributions. Last year, we had over 750 families, businesses, and individuals help out with gifts. Their support goes directly to families in our community who are in great need, so the donors know their impact is local and essential to the most vulnerable in our community.”
This year, The Intelligencer’s Give A Christmas fundraising goal is $140,000.
Jay and Susan Brodish of Doylestown Township are among the generous locals helping to make that goal a reality. They’ve donated faithfully to the program for years and are doing so again in 2020.
“There’s greater need this year for all the services and supports that the opportunity council provides, including helping to put food on the table,” said Jay Brodish. “One of the reasons I like this charity is that they are local and there’s very little spent on promotion and administration costs. The money goes right to the cause. You can’t get better than that.”
David Creamer feels similarly. Creamer and his wife orchestrate the Francis J. Raab Foundation, a grant-making organization that, among other things, helps veterans and people struggling in hard circumstances. Annually, the foundation makes a sizable donation to Give A Christmas.
The organization has also supported BCOC with donations at other times of the year. For instance, the foundation paid for the labor required to have the roof of a home re-shingled for a woman in need that BCOC was trying to assist. “
I do a lot of research into the causes and organizations we consider supporting, and the good news about Give A Christmas and the Bucks County Opportunity Council is that the money is really being used to help people locally,” said Creamer.
Another frequent supporter of Give A Christmas from the Doylestown area who wished to remain anonymous told The Intelligencer that one thing he especially likes about the BCOC is that it assists people in becoming self-sufficient through its various programs — initiatives that aim to make it so that folks ultimately never have to rely on welfare again.
“They help put people in our community on a path to a better life,” the generous donor said.
In making a donation of $1,010 to Give A Christmas this year, Leroy Blimegger Jr. of Doylestown said, “2020 has been a difficult year for so many families. Our hope is that this donation will help the hardest hit families start 2021 with happiness and hope for a brighter future.”
Surely, it’s a sentiment held by many donors.
“Give until it hurts,” said Epstein. “You get back far more than you put in.”