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A Legacy of Giving

| September 7, 2010

For MAZON donor Craig Newman, philanthropy was a focus from an early age. Growing up in Philadelphia, he had strong role models in his parents and his maternal grandfather Charlie. Newman never met his mother’s father, for whom he was named, but he was still a towering figure in young Craig’s life. “He was known around his neighborhood as an incredibly giving person who was always promoting charity and peace,” Newman says. “My mom instilled in me this idea that he was a bluebird on my shoulder, and that by doing good things I was making him proud in heaven.” Charlie’s example, as well as the remarkable civic-mindedness of Newman’s own parents, taught him the importance of social justice – a lesson, according to Newman, made more powerful because it “was really passed down from generation to generation.”

It’s a lesson that Newman has incorporated into his own life. A long-time supporter of MAZON, the Los Angeles-based music booking agent has demonstrated an unflagging dedication to leveraging professional success into the pursuit of social good. “When I got to the point in my career when I was able more comfortably to put aside money for donations, I began looking around for a cause I could believe in,” he remembers. As he sees it, giving back is both a Jewish mandate and a personal obligation. “We’re raised in our faith to be giving people,” he points out, noting that he has particular reason to be generous. “Everything that’s gotten me to where I am today – my wife, my family, a great job – are all blessings,” he says. “And blessings need to be returned.”

Newman has returned those blessings in spades. His search for a place to direct his charitable contributions led him to MAZON, where he has consistently raised the bar in showcasing how one person’s passion can inspire an entire community. This past spring, he ran a 10K race as part of Fiesta Days, a local Memorial Day celebration, and used it as an opportunity to encourage friends and loved ones to donate to MAZON. “My goal was to raise $500,” he recalls, “and I wound up raising $1,800!” The idea, Newman says, was simple: “I thought, ‘If I’m going to challenge myself, I want to raise money for people who are challenged – hungry people around the world.’” In addition to providing critical funds for struggling families, Craig’s endeavor gave him a renewed sense of perspective. “It was really a motivational tool in my training and during the race,” he says. “I kept telling myself, ‘Look, as hard as this is, and as tough as it feels on my body, think about all the people having a much more difficult time in their lives.’”

Newman’s advocacy on MAZON’s behalf is not limited to events like the Fiesta Days Run. He frequently makes tribute gifts in honor of people he cares about across the country. “I’ve sent MAZON tributes to people in Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and parts of New England,” he says. “It’s so nice to be able to donate for someone in commemoration of a wedding, anniversary, birthday or other special event. Tributes help people realize they are loved, and that in a tough, tough world there is cause for hope. Plus, it motivates them to make contributions of their own.”

In Newman’s view, one of the things that distinguishes MAZON is its commitment to anti-hunger grantmaking that emphasizes responsible financial stewardship. “I feel very comfortable, through working with and getting to know the people at MAZON, that my money is going to the right place,” he says. He also appreciates the organization’s guiding philosophy that every gift – no matter how large or small – makes a difference. “I give what I can to MAZON, but I’m not a rich man,” he says. “Here’s an organization that wants to write a story about me; that’s pretty incredible when you know I’m not a top-level donor.”

Of course, Newman’s work to achieve lasting hunger relief has done more than earn him the admiration and respect of MAZON’s professional staff. It has also linked him more deeply to his family’s tradition of service – and that, says Newman, is very special indeed. “My mom and dad in Philly are kvelling.”

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