Will one of our awardees found the next Sears Roebuck, Macy’s or Nieman Marcus?
In preparing for a trip to Texas for my nephew’s wedding, my husband and I decided that we would visit the grave of my great-grandfather in San Antonio. Growing up, I knew only that his business “outfitted riders for the Sante Fe trail.” Recently, I learned that he had left Germany in the 1840s because of restrictions and conditions there that did not allow Jews to thrive. The only trade that they were allowed was leathercrafting.
Sure enough, in America, he was able to use that craft to found a very successful business:
L-Frank Saddlery that still exists today under a different name. It first became Straus-Frank and now Strafco and has moved from making saddles and collars for horses to distributing auto parts, tires and more. Many of the great department stores were similarly founded by Jews who came here as peddlers (having been restricted to the “rag business”) and parlayed their talents to founding most of the major department stores that we know.
Sadly, in America today, how many people are deprived of the opportunity to use their talents because they cannot scrape together the money to mount even the lowest rung of a ladder out of poverty? Hopefully, America is now awakening to systemic inequities that create barriers for talented people. The situation is not only a matter of injustice but should also be a matter of self-interest for all of us because our population growth is declining. We desperately need healthy adults – physically, mentally and socially. But babies whose families suffer the insults of poverty will not become the productive adults that we desperately need because they are stunted even while in the womb from the stresses and deprivations that afflict their parents.
Maybe one day government programs to help these families will be so plentiful that there will be no need for Friends. But, for now, you have helped over 300 women remove financial barriers that prevent them from earning enough to provide a healthful environment for their families. Women like Jannelys who came here from Venezuela in 2018 equipped with an engineering degree. She intended to spend time learning English and then go into engineering. But she became pregnant, could not work full time and took a job as a waitress until extreme nausea made even that impossible. After the baby’s birth, she and her partner tried to schedule alternating shifts to take care of the baby, but didn’t work either.
In Venezuela, she had operated a craft business and dreamed of doing that. But she had absolutely no money to pay for the equipment she needed. Her nurse told her about Heart’s Desire, “this awesome program.” Just $700 paid for the tools she needed. A year later she came back to us because the business was flourishing but with the baby’s expenses and the pandemic limiting her husband’s work hours, she had no money to license and brand it. Another $500 from us resolved that problem.