Originally from rural Michigan, Irv Lichtenwald was raised in a supportive family environment. “I had a wonderful childhood and parents that gave me consistent, positive reinforcement. They told me that I could do anything, and I believed it. We didn’t have a lot of money, but my parents’ love and support gave me a solid foundation in life, and I have been very fortunate as a result of that. A supportive home life continues to be very important to me today.”
Through a powerful, early experience while in San Francisco, Irv became curious about the issue of homeless youth and what led them to the streets. “My upbringing was so positive that it came as a stark realization to know that so many kids have a very different view of life given the circumstances they have had to endure. Living in San Francisco, you see lots of kids on the streets. I was really bothered by it. It would be one thing if these kids had full knowledge to make decisions about their well-being, but they don’t. These are kids. Many of them are driven to engage in risky behavior out of fear or because they have no other choice.” As a concerned citizen, Irv felt the need to do something. “That is when I became aware of Larkin Street.”
Irv’s involvement with Larkin Street dates back to the agency’s early years. “I was young and started giving what I could—small amounts here and there; then, over time I was able to do more. I really like that Larkin Street caters to all youth in a non-discriminating way. I also admire how the agency has developed a comprehensive web of support—from housing to education to jobs and so on. These are such wonderful things, and Larkin Street offers them without qualification in a non-threatening way for kids. They’ve done a great job making choices available to kids who might never have had them.”
A charter member of The Larkin Street Society (planned giving), Irv designated Larkin Street Youth Services as a beneficiary of his will. “I have always been a very organized person in all aspects of my life. For that reason, estate planning appealed to me.” In 1994, Irv consulted an attorney who helped him to draw up the plan. “The process was really easy. It gives me confidence knowing that my affairs will be taken care of in the manner that I would like should anything ever happen to me. People typically don’t like to talk about dying, and I would count myself among them, but estate planning is a smart thing to do.
“My involvement with Larkin Street has been a very rewarding experience for me. In my life, it has never ceased to amaze me how loyal people can be if you deliberately go out of your way to give somebody an opportunity that they otherwise might not have. Larkin Street is taking kids who weren’t encouraged or supported and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. People remember that—and, in my experience, they will do the same thing for somebody else. Larkin Street is investing in kids who have the willingness and capability to learn and do something positive in their lives. The payback on this investment is huge.”
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