One would imagine that being a social worker means that your life is pretty much filled with things that are, well, pretty social! However, Alan Naiman was somewhat of a quiet loner who kept mostly to himself, and he was both childless and unmarried when he passed away at the tender young age of 63.
His closest friends knew Alan as a comically thrifty man who would take his scrimping ways to the extreme by duct-taping his shoes instead of buying a new pair. Social workers don’t exactly make the big bucks in life, so it was understandable if he felt the need to save a few pennies here and there. But, it wasn’t until after his passing that Alan’s true motivation for being so frugal came to light. Let’s just say that his lifelong secret brings a whole new meaning to, “it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.”
Alan spent his whole life trying to avoid spending money. Dinner with friends meant fast-food instead of a nice sit-down restaurant, he’d hang around the deli at closing time for last-minute deals, and he even worked extra jobs to stockpile some much-needed cash. Once he was “senior” enough, Alan was excited to be able to save even more money by buying his clothes at the grocery store.
The Seattle, Washington social worker knew how unfair life could be for all the vulnerable children out there who were struggling to survive, including his own brother, who had a developmental disability. The very private man rarely spoke of his brother or even the foster children he cared for in his younger years, but they were responsible for his thrift-spending ways.
After Alan’s brother passed in 2013, he finally treated himself to a sports car, but he saved the rest for a rainy day. That rainy day came when he himself passed away and everyone discovered that Alan had actually amassed quite a fortune, to the tune of 11 million dollars. It was all earmarked for charities that helped children who were poor, sick, disabled, or abandoned.
Some of the charities didn’t even really know Alan, but that didn’t matter because he certainly had them in his thoughts – and his will. According to CTV News, Barbara Drennan, founder of the Pediatric Interim Care Center said:
“We would never dream that something like this would happen to us. I wish very much that I could have met him. I would have loved to have had him see the babies he’s protecting.”
Alan left a whopping 2.5 million of his fortune to Barbara’s private organization, which helps babies wean off the chemical dependence brought on by their drug-abuse moms. A decade ago, Alan had called the center about a newborn while he was working for the state. She remembers showing up in the middle of the night to fetch the baby, but she never personally met Alan himself.
Another beneficiary, the Treehouse foster care organization, was bequeathed an astounding $900,000 portion of Alan’s generous wealth. When he was a foster parent, Alan brought the kids under his care to their warehouse, where wards of the state can receive toys, clothing, and other necessities free of charge. Jessica Ross, Treehouse’s chief development officer couldn’t believe that one man could be so committed to serving a higher calling:
“The frugality that he lived through, that he committed to in his life, was for this. It’s really a gift to all of us to see that pure demonstration of philanthropy and love.”
This secret philanthropist certainly deserved to be praised while he was still alive, but the legacy of this humble, quiet man will continue to live on in all the charities he’s helped along the way.
Alan Naiman paid the ultimate price for wanting to serve vulnerable children in need.