Two guys with nothing in common. William Aramony and Chris Schrobilgen. They are who I think about as Summer Santa enters its 17th season of serving close to 40,000 area children in need. They bookend the beginning and the now in Summer Santa‘s history, a charity I co-founded with Westlake Municipal Judge Brad Bradley in 1997.
William Aramony is the inspiration for Summer Santa’s guiding principle of operating with no overhead, no paid staff and no physical office. Our all-volunteer charity is actually the anti-William Aramony non-profit.
Here’s why. At the same time we created Summer Santa, Aramony was going off to prison to begin serving a six-year sentence. Once, he was the shining star of American charities. For more than 20 years as CEO of United Way of America, he had built the United Way into America’s largest charity. It was he who focused on creating community chapters, holding annual fall campaign events and partnering with the NFL.
Aramony was paid $390,000 in salary and $73,000 a year in other compensation. But that wasn’t enough. The feds charged him with defrauding his organization by more than $1 million. He spent United Way money on his mistress, fancy meals, tips and gifts. He was responsible for no-show jobs, too.
In a trial, he was convicted of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, filing false tax returns and other charges. He was fined $300,000. He died in 2011.
Now you know why he is our inspiration. In 16 years, Summer Santa has never paid a penny in salary to anyone on staff. Yet our loyal all-volunteer staff has worked to make sure that we distributed $640,000 in camp scholarships to 3,000 children, funded $119,000 for 1,190 kids to get back-to-school clothing, provided 400 pre-camp medical physicals and collected 32,000 toys for kids in crisis.
And that brings us to the other guy on the bookend of our life – the good guy, Chris Schrobilgen. Chris runs OurGreatCity.com, an online community that promotes the good works of folks in several of the North Texas towns that Summer Santa helps each year.
Chris is so talented. Not only does he operate a cutting edge website that benefits thousands, he also has an unusual and creative talent for video storytelling. Chris takes the entire story of Summer Santa and tells it in 2 ½ minutes. And he doesn’t tell it from the usual point of view. Rather he tells it through the eyes of the donors. This is unusual and also quite worthy. What do donors get out of their giving? Why do they do it? How does it change them?
These are the bigger questions about helping others that charities don't often address. Summer Santa salutes Chris Schrobilgen and OurGreatCity.com for helping us tell our story in a most magnificent and touching way.
Please spend a couple of minutes enjoying Chris' work.
Hey, and don't forget that we have a great event coming Feb. 10, 2013. Learn about our Broadway's Best “Tribute to Love” Valentine's Concert in Grapevine here.