Chapter XVIII • Helping Hands
Sweet Success • The Albert Sweet Story
Chapter XVIII • Helping Hands
It has been said that the motivation for some men to do well is so that they can do good. Al happens to be one of those men. He is the first to admit that although he is grateful for his success, he doesn’t consider himself materialistic. Those who know Al understand that his work ethic springs from his desire to not only provide for his family and employees, but also for humanity at large. And to prove it, Al’s philanthropic work has become his passion.
The total number of philanthropies Al has dedicated himself to are far too numerous to mention. Even though all of them are close to his heart, a few stand out – including his devotion to St. Anne’s, a home for unwed mothers. Al’s involvement with just such an organization is a testament to his deep seated desire to help all who are in need, regardless of their religious affiliation…
St. Anne’s is a wonderful organization founded over 100 years ago by the Catholic Church. They take these unwed kids off the streets, some of whom are as young as thirteen years old, and see them through their pregnancies. They provide them with a solid high school education, and teach them computer sciences and other skills.
The nuns often look after the babies while the mothers attend school. They’re able to lift these kids out of poverty and gangs and turn them into real people. It’s truly amazing what they do. I am as proud of my activity with this organization as with anything I do.
Founded in 1953, the Junior Blind of America services the needs of thousands of individuals each year. With a focus on children, the organization has expanded its treatment to cover those who also have autism, cerebral palsy, or mental retardation in addition to their visual impairment…
One of the first philanthropies I got involved with was the Foundation for the Junior Blind. I showed up at a meeting one day and fell in love. The kids were just incredible. My favorite story occurred last year. They were having their annual graduation. I met a Chinese girl who had just finished her doctorate in English. I found out that she was headed to China to teach English to Chinese kids in a small town outside Beijing… and she was going there alone! I couldn’t believe it. She just exuded love and confidence. When I think of all the challenges I’ve had to face, nothing compares. The Junior Blind is a place of miracles.
Rabbi Schmukler had been feeding kids from Russian/Jewish families in West Hollywood prior to starting the JETS program. His philosophy, taken directly from the book of Proverbs, says that one should “Educate a child according to His way; for even when he grows old, he will not depart from it.”
JETS stands for Jewish Educational Trade School. There were lots of Jewish kids growing up in West Hollywood who weren’t college material. In fact, they were barely high school material. So the JETS began training these kids for various trade school jobs. My friend Bernie Shapiro recommended the organization to me. The founder, Rabbi Mayer Schmukler, had been a teacher of rabbis before deciding that the world had enough rabbis. “What we need,” he said, “are more electricians, plumbers, and the like.”
The thing that captured my imagination was that he didn’t bring anyone on board for training unless he felt he could secure a trade job for them. He had relationships with companies that were willing to hire those who completed his program. During their second year of operation, he turned out 46 airplane mechanics and managed to arrange jobs for many of them over at the Van Nuys and LAX airports. That’s why I got involved with this particular organization. I don’t know anybody else who does it this way, but I think it’s the best way to do it.
Doctors Phillip Rossman and Mayer Davidson founded The Venice Family Clinic back in 1970. Their goal was to provide healthcare services to individuals in the Southern California area for those who couldn’t afford it. Today, they are able to serve nearly 25,000 people each year…
The Venice Family Clinic is very special to me. My neighbor suggested I get involved with them. The two doctors who started it were able to encourage other doctors, dentists, and psychologists in the area to volunteer their services one day a month. The Clinic provides free health care to those who don’t have any money. They’ve since become the largest free clinic in the country. There are a lot of older doctors who are retiring who donate their time. What better way to spend your time than helping people like that.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to seeking justice for those who are vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation in our society. Founded by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. in 1971, the SPLC is based in Montgomery, Alabama – the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has done a great job dealing with discrimination and prejudice of all kinds in our country. In recent years, they have been responsible for breaking down a number of supremacist groups, most notably the Ku Klux Klan. They have won many landmark legal battles on behalf of countless victims. My thinking is that you can’t have peace as long as prejudice prevails. Morris and his team are doing great work.
Burt Sperber’s daughter Wendie Jo had been good friends with actor Tom Hanks before he hit the big time. She would drive him around a lot since he didn’t have a car. The two of them even starred together on the television sitcom Bosom Buddies back in the early 80’s. But after being diagnosed with cancer, her life took a dramatic turn. She was able to hold on for ten years before succumbing to the disease, but managed to accomplish quite a bit during that time…
I talked about weSPARK earlier. It was founded by Wendie Jo Sperber, daughter of my good friend Burt Sperber, after she discovered she had breast cancer. weSPARK has helped countless cancer patients who don’t have the means to pay for treatment. It is a truly wonderful organization. And it’s a true testament to the Sperber family who are just great people.
There have been numerous other key philanthropies that have benefited from Al’s passionate involvement including KCET, the Hadassah Medical Center, the Technion Institute of Technology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Aish HaTorah… and the list goes on and on.
So there you have it – the story of Albert Sweet. From The Bronx to Hollywood; it’s been quite a journey. There have been highs and lows, twists and turns, and a few bumps along the way. But when all things are said and done, Al can look back upon his life and all that he has accomplished with fondness and pride. The road to success is measured not by riches, but by those who have been helped along the way.
For Al, success has indeed been sweet. And as it turns out, the goal he made for himself in his high school year book turned out to be truly prophetic – The Kid Made Good.