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Young Philanthropists Spruce Up Programs for At-Risk Youth

May 30, 2013 By:
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Spruced-up: Brittani Devereaux (left) and J. Rudy Flesher (right), Spruce Foundation’s co-presidents, are joined by Rachael Eisenberg, vice president, and foundation co-founder Joshua Schwartz.

Mitzvah Heroes: Josh Schwartz, 30, and Rachael Eisenberg, 26, two of the guiding forces behind the Spruce Foundation, whose mission is “to fund high impact youth initiatives in the Philadelphia region and to cultivate the next generation of philanthropists in the Philadelphia region through leadership development initiatives.”

What It’s All About: “The spruce is meant to represent the organization’s efforts to tie Philadelphia’s young philanthropists to our city’s ‘roots’ — Philadelphia children!” explains Schwartz, who co-founded the group with his brother, Lee Garber, in 2007. The foundation was also conceived on Spruce Street — home of Schwartz's law office. Since then, the group has branched out to involve the talents of some 1,500 volunteers in their 20s to 30s. They’re aiming to bring in $100,000 this calendar year, abetted by a recent fundraiser. That money — in cooperation with 15 area nonprofits — is targeted for afterschool programs attended by at-risk kids.

Not a One-Time Thing: The organization has helped countless children find the spunk and spirit within even when the outside world tried to push back. The question is, “will young professionals in Philadelphia continue to step up and bring ideas to the table?” asks Schwartz, a Penn State and Widener University School of Law grad who lives in Center City with his wife, Diane, and daughter, Nora.

At that table now is Eisenberg, a Cornell University graduate currently in law school at Temple University.

“Rachael is one of the biggest reasons why I consider Spruce a success," Schwartz says. "She represents the second generation of leadership. But someday it will be Rachael’s turn to pass the baton.”

Eisenberg's involvement has evolved from what she learned growing up in Rydal.

“We are all taught that tzedakah is an obligation," she says "The Spruce Foundation has been a source of opportunity for thousands of young adults,” Jewish or not, “to carry out tzedakah.”

Good for Them: There are lessons to be learned from Spruce-ing up, Schwartz says, counting himself among the foundation's students. Through their activity, “a lot of the Spruce members have been taught the same thing about themselves — each one can have a meaningful  impact on our community,” says Schwartz, who was raised in Elkins Park and Lower Merion. “We have learned that being a philanthropist is not something reserved for our parents’ generation or for the very wealthy. It is something that needs to be a part of our lives even in the early stages of our careers if we want Philadelphia to flourish.”

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