Every year, dozens of high school students from Bedford, Cambria, and Somerset counties travel to Washington, D.C. for an all-expenses paid trip the U.S. Holocaust Museum. There, these students are transported through time, to learn about the history and horrors of racism, and to take in the effects of genocide.
These trips are transformative. They are the legacy of Abe Beerman.
“The impact basically is in the kids’ letters,” says Bill Glosser, who was Abe’s long-time friend and attorney. “Many many many said they want to go back. Plus, they get to see the White House and the Washington Monument, which, if you’re living in Roxbury or Portage, you may never get to see in your lifetime.”
By the time he passed away in 2007, Abe was a self-made multi-millionaire. Decades of hard work at his automotive supply business had paid off. But he and his wife Janet had never had any children, which meant no heirs to his estate.
“We’re all mortal,” says Bill. “At some point, Abe had to make a provision because he had no children and he wanted to do something worthwhile. He accomplished that through the Community Foundation with a minimum of fuss.”
Abe Beerman was one of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies’ founding Board members. Before he ever established his own charitable funds, he was a believer in the Foundation’s ability to empower our region by pooling donor resources, and taking the lead on assessing, and meeting, community needs.
“We were in our infancy when Abe was alive,” says Bill, also a founding CFA Board Member, speaking about the Foundation’s early years. “I think he could realize the long-term impact we would have on this region.”
Abe took that impact to heart. He established his first fund with the Community Foundation in 1994. To this day, the Abe & Janet Beerman Fund continues to support the holiday meals program and other activities through the Beth Shalom Temple.
When Janet passed away ten years later, Abe created the Janet Beerman Free Dental Clinic Fund, to honor her memory. This fund has improved countless lives by helping to provide dental care to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Today, it supports the Salvation Army’s free dental program in Johnstown.
Shelby Shane is the clinic’s business manager. “We get thank you letters that say thanks for changing my life. People who can’t take care of their teeth, it affects the rest of their health. Once they get their teeth fixed and feel healthier and see that they can smile again, they become a whole different person.”
In 2006, Abe read in a Jewish newspaper about a group that was sending African-American high school students to the holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.. Abe immediately established the Blanche Beerman Holocaust Museum Fund, in honor of his sister. Blanche, too, contributed a substantial amount to the fund upon her death.
A decade later, the holocaust memorial program continues opening minds and hearts to the tragedies that befall us when we forget, or ignore, history. That’s exactly what Abe wanted.
“If Abe were alive,” says Bill, “he would be absolutely thrilled at how this has worked out.”
“When a donor comes to us with a vision of how they’d like to help this community, we hold that vision sacred,” says CFA President Mike Kane. “Even if they don’t have a clear vision – they just know they want to help – nothing is more important to us than helping them figure out the best way to do that, then maintaining the integrity of our donors’ funds.”
The Beerman funds, in partnership with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, have benefited innumerable friends and neighbors throughout our region, for three decades. With the perfect combination of well-thought-out intentions, expert planning, and impeccable stewardship, they will continue to do so for decades to come.