BORN TO SURVIVE
by Sam Pfeffer
and Joshua M. Sklare
Born in Illinois in 1926, Sam Pfeffer was graduated from Northwestern University and DePaul University Law School. A navy veteran, he founded a law firm and engaged in business ventures including a large auto dealership. Philanthropic and civic involvements include the Northwest Synagogue Council and Beth Hillel Congregation B’nai Emunah of Wilmette, Illinois, as well as Mallinckrodt College, Shore Community Services, and Catholic Orphans of Acapulco.
When I owned Old Orchard Chevrolet, we were advertising a fifteen-passenger van in the newspaper. We had originally ordered it for a Korean church, as one of our salespeople was a member of that church. But after taking delivery of the truck, the church called us and told us that they had determined that they could not afford it. We were in a bind and needed to unload it in a hurry. There were heavy interest payments to GMAC once a vehicle was delivered, so we needed to sell it — and sell it fast. The price we asked for in the paper was $1 over cost.
A few days later, a call came in from a church that was interested in the van. On the line was Sister Stephanie Schmidt from St. Joseph’s, one of the oldest parishes in Chicago. She told me that their school needed a large van to take the children to various activities. Their vehicle had seen better days and was no longer serviceable. But their major obstacle was money. They had only $600, but said if they could raise $10,000 for the van, a charitable foundation would match the sum. However, there was only one problem in all of this. They had no way of raising the $10,000.
If you remember, I was a co-trustee of various charitable trusts and would make allotments on one of these trusts at the end of the fiscal period. I suggested to Sister Stephanie and Father Sebastian Lewis, the pastor of the parish, that they come out to the dealership. They came by and the van seemed to be exactly what they were looking for. I sat them down and told them that there was a possibility of getting them their $10,000. Of course, as the co-trustee, I wanted to ensure that there would be no conflict of interest in making the grant. My co-trustee agreed that there was none and that this particular grant met all of our requirements. Sister Stephanie sent the letter to the corporate co-trustee, who told me that we could give them the grant. All was accomplished as he sent St. Joseph’s a letter which indicated that a check would be forthcoming and any other information that the other foundation required. They then gave the letter to the foundation that had promised the matching grant and secured the remaining funds. She called me and was so excited that I sent the information to the insurance company, and, meanwhile, we prepared the van for delivery.