Story by Trace Shelton of Instore Magazine
Howard Hurwitz knows what it’s like to struggle. His first location of Howard’s Jewelry & Loan, located in the Cleveland area, measured just 15 x 90 feet. It was an uphill climb to make ends meet in the store’s early days, back in the 1980s. Eventually, the business got its legs and grew into a second location in 2000.
Then, Hurwitz heard about worse struggles than his – struggles of life and death, being fought not by business owners, but by children.
“I was sent two money-collection canisters by Jewelers for Children just after I had opened my second store,” says Hurwitz. “It was a time period when my wife Leslie and I were considering what we should be involved with, charity-wise. We thought, ‘What better than the charity of the jewelry industry?'”
For Hurwitz, being involved in an industry-wide effort was appealing, but when he attended his first Facets of Hope Dinner in Las Vegas, giving to Jewelers For Children became his passion.
“Our first year in the program, we raised $1,000, which was enough to earn Leslie and I two tickets to the Facets of Hope Dinner,” he says. There, the couple listened to children on stage who told stories of dealing with cancer and other catastrophic diseases, and how they were helped by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, one of the charities that JFC supports. “Our hearts were touched so deeply,” says Hurwitz. “We have two healthy kids and a grandson; we realized that Jewelers for Children was the charity we wanted to put most of our efforts into.”
The dinner was a turning point. Before, the store took in donations, but there was little focused effort. Now, Hurwitz and his team raised the stakes.
“We started donating all money from watch batteries or minor repairs up to $15 into the canister. If it was an $8 battery, customers would often say ‘Keep the change’ on a 10 or 20 dollar bill,” says Hurwitz. Howard’s employees tell customers about the four major charities that JFC supports, and their reaction has been nothing but thankful. Over time, donations from Howard’s have grown from $1,000 to $12,000 per year.
Much of the reason for the program’s success has been Hurwitz spreading the word to his employees at all three of his stores. “My people know that JFC is very important to me. When someone asks for a battery, we tell them how much it is and that the entire proceeds go into the Jewelers for Children charity box, and some of the great programs they have going on.”
Part of the charity’s appeal is that donors can see the results in their own communities, says Hurwitz. “We sponsored some kids in Cleveland through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Their wish was to have a swimming pool in their backyard, and they got it! It’s one of those things that puts a smile on your face.”
Hurwitz also remains in touch with the people his donations benefit by visiting St. Jude’s Hospital regularly to see the kids and the doctors. Recently, he says, there was a story of a woman from Jamaica whose four-year old child had bone cancer. “The doctor suggested St. Jude’s, and she got in and he had a bone marrow transplant without paying a penny. This child probably would not have made it. It’s a very worthwhile and rewarding charity; you can see some great things happening.”
As much as he loves Jewelers for Children, Hurwitz is saddened and a little surprised that more independent jewelers like him aren’t involved in the charity. “If we could get them to come to just one Facets of Hope Dinner and see what happens on stage, their hearts would open up,” he says. “Every cent matters. You don’t have to be the president of Movado to have an impact.”