Tom Stange

Shari Schwartz

Tom Walker

Corrections or additions?

This article by Melinda Sherwood was published in U.S. 1

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

themselves

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

charity,

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

catastrophe

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

thousand

in fundraising each year. That is, she annually brings in over $1,000

in private donations to the event. That makes her the highest

individual

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

time."

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

American

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

estimated

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

this year.

Top Of Page
Tom Stange

Stange, a volunteer fireman and lifelong Princeton

resident,

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

individuals,

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

bench."

"When they’re here they just goof around," says Schwartz

"They

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."

Top Of Page
Shari Schwartz

Although Schwartz has no close ties to people with cancer, she does

have close ties to the American Cancer Society and the game of

softball.

She was born and raised in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, where her

mother

was active in the local chapter of the American Cancer Society,

coordinating

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

with mom."

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

president

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

insurance

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

what clients."

Each year, Schwartz manages to pull in over $1,000 in private

donations,

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."

Top Of Page
Tom Walker

Schwartz’s enthusiasm is buoyed by the philanthropic attitude of

American

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

support."

"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

Princeton

in 1989, and he set an example by serving on several community boards,

including Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. "He was very

instrumental

in supporting American Reinsurance’s employees involvement in the

community," says Walker. "He thought it was an important

aspect

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

program,

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

charities,"

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.

"You

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

raised

as much from individuals as corporations, it shows that individuals

really count."

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

anymore,"

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

uncertain

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


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