Corrections or additions?
Newspaper on December 22, 1999. All rights reserved.
Making a Difference Can Be a Joy, Not a Trial
You may be one of the many people who think that,
in order to make a difference in any decent cause, you have to be
ready to toil in the trenches. Some people might even chastise
for not giving as much time or effort as they would like to. Instead
of laboring in the trenches, these well meaning folks might walk,
bike, or putt for a charity a couple of times a year.
But as Shari Schwartz can attest, having fun for a good cause can
pay big dividends. Schwartz plays second base for her favorite
the American Cancer Society. Technically, she plays for the Princeton
Forrestal Center All-Stars, a team comprised of the employees of some
60 tenants at the College Road office park. Still, the money that
she raises each year through private donations goes to the Middlesex
chapter of the American Cancer Society. The vice president for
management at American Reinsurance in Princeton Forrestal Village,
she’s been playing to win for the past 10 years. But the points she
hopes to score are not out on the diamond — Schwartz bats a
in fundraising each year. That is, she annually brings in over $1,000
in private donations to the event. That makes her the highest
fundraiser in the event’s history.
No sweat, says Schwartz. "What I do I do effectively," she
says. "I actually don’t spend a lot of time doing this." She
estimates approximately 30 hours over six weeks to send E-mails and
to pester friends, colleagues, and family for contributions, which
never exceed $100. "I’m able to take just a little bit of time,
concentrate on it, do it well, and be able to accomplish something
big. People can make an impact without giving a huge amount of
Last year the Princeton Forrestal Center All-Stars, under Tom Stange,
a leasing manager for National Business Parks, gave $16,000 to the
American Cancer Society. Big annual fundraisers organized by the
Cancer Society — Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in October,
and Relay for Life in the spring — pull in about 85 percent of
the organization’s $7.2 million budget. The balance is covered by
local, grassroots events, such as the corporate-sponsored softball
game put on by National Business Parks, says Peter Porcelli, senior
vice president of income development at the American Cancer Society
in New Brunswick. "Those kinds of events are sort of community
organized, and they are really important to us because they involve
a lot of local individuals who volunteer in a local way, and in many
instances there are low fundraising costs," he says. "We are
very appreciative of these corporate events."
What’s raised in New Jersey, stays in New Jersey, and for the
40,000 people in New Jersey the ACS estimates will be diagnosed with
cancer this year, those funds are invaluable. Mercer and Middlesex
counties together will see more than 2,000 people with that diagnosis
Stange, a volunteer fireman and lifelong Princeton
has seen the faces of people who benefit from the annual softball
game. "A couple of years ago we had a patient who had undergone
more than 200 radiation treatments for his particular type of cancer
and he came out and played. I think that brought it home," he
says. "You have a person say to you that it’s monies from this
type of event that had paid for the equipment that had treated him
and helped him be there that day."
In 1989 the Princeton Forrestal Center All-Stars raised $20,000 for
the American Cancer Society, and have been pulling in roughly that
amount each year. "Ten years ago we wanted to do something that
involved our tenants that involved a worthy charity," says Stange,
"and the common thread is the softball league."
At the time the New York Giants had just won the SuperBowl, so Marie
Clark, the events planner, arranged to get the Giants to participate
in the fundraiser and galvanize team spirit. The tradition continues;
once a year the Princeton Forrestal Center All-Stars will play against
a handful of Giants players. Stange asks corporations to donate, and
individuals are asked to raise a minimum of $150 to play in the game.
The highest breadwinners get to play on the Giants team. "The
first year we raised $10,000 from corporations, and $10,000 from
but there are individuals such as Shari Schwartz who come in every
year with over $1,000. Shari individually brought in considerably
more than anybody. The largest individual fundraiser rounds out the
Giants team, so she gets to joke around and have a good time on their
"When they’re here they just goof around," says Schwartz
dance, they put too many people in the outfield, they hold you on
base and keep you from running, and they say obnoxious things. I get
to meet some nice people and see my friend Dave." That would be
Dave Jennings, a former New York Giant and Jet, all-pro punter, comes
to the May game each year and helps draw in other players. "Dave
Jennings is an example of those who do it because he likes to do this
stuff," says Schwartz. "He’s been the one person who comes
back every year."
Although Schwartz has no close ties to people with cancer, she does
have close ties to the American Cancer Society and the game of
She was born and raised in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, where her
was active in the local chapter of the American Cancer Society,
many of the fundraisers. Her father, a manufacturer in the garment
industry, was one of the few men that would come to the luncheons.
As a child, Shari Schwartz was a juvenile fundraiser, working with
her mom on events. "We used to go the Plaza Hotel for the big
luncheon and I’d walk the runway and help give out the prizes and
sell raffle tickets," she recalls. "Then I would make her
take me across the street to Nathan’s. It was like a day in the city
Schwartz played softball as a child, and later at SUNY Albany, where
she received a BS in business, Class of 1985. She is also an avid
golfer and skier, and, despite the fact that her social commitments
are usually in New York, she likes New Jersey because "they don’t
have golf courses in New York."
She joined American Reinsurance as a data processor, and when the
company relocated from Manhattan to Princeton in 1988, Schwartz moved
to Lawrenceville. She eventually earned an MBA at Rider. As vice
of catastrophe management, Schwartz monitors the accumulation of risk
that can be affected by natural catastrophes, using computer models
to simulate natural disasters and estimate the cost to client
companies. "We’re dealing with state of the art technology,"
she says. "When hurricane Floyd was happening we were able to
relatively quickly assess what our potential losses would be and from
Each year, Schwartz manages to pull in over $1,000 in private
collected from family, friends, and coworkers. Last year she broke
her own record, raising $1,875. "Many of the ones who give have
had family members with cancer, something that makes it interesting
for them to donate to this charity," she says.
Schwartz’s accomplishment is even more unusual in that few people
try to gather that much in donations, preferring to leave it to the
corporation or business to handle. "I’m probably one of the last
individual fundraisers left," says Schwartz. "Over the years
the individuals really dropped out from raising money and different
teams would be sponsored by the company. Nobody tries. Basically,
people went around to raise a minimum of $150, and then they stopped.
Then the first year I ended up raising about $700. So I sent out an
E-mail saying I want to top it."
Schwartz’s enthusiasm is buoyed by the philanthropic attitude of
Reinsurance, which also has several program, including Dollars for
Doers, which provides cash support to activities that employees are
involved in. "We think that supporting community organization
is important for an employer in that community, and the community
is one of the things that helps us attract employees," says Tom
Walker, head of corporate communications at American Reinsurance.
"What might be somewhat different about our philosophy is that
in addition to the corporate contributions we make, we believe that
our employees have good insight into what local activities need to
"Everyone who works here does something," Schwartz agrees.
"I personally write about seven checks a year to support the March
of Dimes." The money may be just trading hands, but it’s important
to do the asking anyway. "You kind of feel like a pain in the
neck asking, but the management doesn’t frown upon that — they
admire it and reward people for doing that."
Literally. Each year American ReInsurance gives out the Edward B.
Jobe award, named after the 35-year company veteran who was chairman
from 1992 to 1995. He was president when the company moved to
in 1989, and he set an example by serving on several community boards,
including Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. "He was very
in supporting American Reinsurance’s employees involvement in the
community," says Walker. "He thought it was an important
of moving to a new community."
Winners of the annual Jobe award receive a donation to the charity
of their choice. Those that have won have been active in such programs
as the New Jersey Special Olympics, the Plainsboro afterschool
and in foster children’s activities groups. Winners are typically
self-nominated or nominated by a manager.
Schwartz is proud to work for a company that encourages volunteerism
and supports local charities. "I think it’s absolutely a major
responsibility of American Reinsurance to support many different
she says. "Companies can afford it a lot more than individuals,
and it gives people in their company the picture that they should
be doing it and sets the tone for people’s involvement."
Giving money may sound like the easy way out, but Stange believes
that everyone has an important role to play in charitable acts.
need people to handle all aspects of any organization — some are
better at raising money and some are better at doing the physical
stuff," he says. "This helps get teamwork going, and heightens
awareness of the charity as well. As in the first year, where we
as much from individuals as corporations, it shows that individuals
The Princeton Forrestal Center All-Stars will play the Giants again
this May, and rain or shine, Schwartz expects to be sitting on the
bench with the Giants, talking to her friend, Jennings. She’s aiming
to break her record and raise $2,000 this year.
If she does, American Reinsurance is likely to recognize her, whether
she wants it or not. "Shari can’t be as low-keyed about this
says Walker. "I think people are impressed by her enthusiasm,
commitment, her follow through. I suspect she’ll be among the nominees
for the Jobe Award in the future."
Although she’s confident about raising the money, Schwartz is
about her game. "I’m getting old," she says. "I remember
hitting five for five the first time I played and the Giants thought
I was amazing. Each year it’s gone down and the Giants make fun of
me that I can’t get on base anymore."
— Melinda Sherwood
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.