By: C. Harold Pierce
A Newport Beach couple helped the college create a $1 million endowment fund two years ahead of its 100th anniversary goal in 2015.
Allan and Sandy Fainbarg donated $450,000 to SAC in July and the Santa Ana College Foundation matched the gift, making it $900,000. In 1999 the Fainbargs donated $100,000, creating the $1 million fund.
Toni Delgado, a 2012 SAC graduate, is one scholarship recipient who benefited from the Fainbargs’ donation.
“I dropped out of high school in tenth grade, got pregnant and became homeless. I’m thankful people are willing to help and believe in me so that I can be successful,” Delgado said.
The 36-year-old single mother began her first semester at California State University, Fullerton this week studying social work. Attending college would not be possible without the Fainbargs’ generosity, she said.
The endowment awards $1,000 scholarships to about 40 students a year.
Allan Fainbarg, a 1940 SAC graduate, moved to Santa Ana in 1919 when his father opened Eureka Shoe Store downtown. Allan still owns the space, which is now Charlie’s Tattoo Supplies. Through the years he added about four blocks of real estate in the city’s East End.
Fainbarg got his investment capital from profits generated by the sale of a chain of Wild West Stores to General Mills in 1981.
He developed a relationship with the Latino community as a shopkeeper selling jeans and cowboy hats.
“Most of my customers were Latino, and I knew they needed financial help to stay in school,” said Fainbarg, whose scholarship fund is earmarked with a preference to Latino students. “They helped me make my living and I wanted to help them get an education so that they could have better lives.”
But some community members are dubious of the couple’s generosity.
The 94-year-old entrepreneur has lately been accused of squeezing out mom-and-pop operations that cater to Latino consumers.
In 2011, Fainbarg evicted El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a nonprofit community organization, from the Knights of Pythias Building on Broadway Street.
Community volunteers say the donation is a way to rebuild Fainbarg’s image as a patron to a Latino population that makes up about 78 percent of the city’s residence.
“Donating money to a largely Latino college is not a bad thing, but to do it to better your image will hurt the community even more,” said Alexis Nava Teodoro, a SAC graduate and community organizer who uses El Centro Cultural de Mexico’s space as a hub for social activism.
The community center also provides free lessons for traditional Mexican and Central American music, dance and art.
Fainbarg’s holdings are now partly managed by his grandson Ryan Chase.
Chase has had to address accusations of gentrifying the neighborhood and racism.
RSCCD Trustee Claudia Alvarez compared downtown redevelopment to “ethnic cleansing” when she was a city councilwoman.
“So if Hitler rents you a place and gives you a good deal, do you take it?” Alvarez asked Chase during an August 2011 city council meeting.
“My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor. If you want to know what ethnic cleansing is, that’s ethnic cleansing,” Chase said.
But in 2011, Alvarez apologized for her remarks.
“My intent was not to offend the Chases or the Jewish community by any means, or to trivialize anything that’s happened to the Jewish community,” she told CBS News after her comments drew public outrage.
His grandfather’s scholarship fund is one of many donations awarded to the Latino community, Chase said.
He cites the 10 years of free rent given to The Wooden Floor, a nonprofit dance group for disadvantaged youths in Santa Ana
“It has nothing to do with race. That’s one of the things we get accused of a lot, is that we’re racist, or we hate Mexicans,” Chase said.
Still, the family has supporters grateful for their philanthropic deeds.
“Our relationship with Allan and Sandy has been one of love. The students are happy with the scholarships and the Fainbargs are happy to help the students,” Scholarship Coordinator Peggy Card-Govela said.
A self-described C student, philanthropist Allan Fainbarg’s donation was meant to address “not the brightest of students,” but among the neediest. “I dropped out of high school for one year when I was 17,” he said. The endowment is meant to help working students, including those raising children, to complete associate degrees and transfer to four-year universities.