The AVODA Story
In 1928 five Jewish men from Atlantic County New Jersey, who could not be accepted as members of existing clubs, started their own social club and established that the sole purpose of the club was to give financial awards to two or three Jewish high school graduates from a high school in Atlantic County to help them afford to go to college.
They maintained the club atmosphere by having lunch together at least once per week. Annually, they would solicit applications for their award from the local schools and pick the winners. Gradually, others wanted to join in on such a worthy endeavor and the club started to grow. It was the social aspect of the club that appears to be the glue that held it together and promoted the expansion. They continued the practice of weekly get togethers and started a newsletter that informed the members of their activities and kept the interest alive. They solicited write-ups from the students still in college and those already in the work force. They published these write-ups in the newsletter and this further helped the group maintain focus. For 85 years this process has been going on without interruption and today the club has approximately 120 members. Many of the prior award winners joined the club even though they did not live near enough to the
Atlantic City area to attend the “meetings”. The club now holds a luncheon and a dinner at least once a month, usually with an invited speaker. The newsletter is a vital part of the whole process.
Last year the club awarded two students with a total of $75,000 spread over the four years of schooling. It is this high magnitude of the award that incentivizes the high school guidance counselors to seek out the outstanding candidates. Last year we had 18 applicants and this year we have 12. All are at the top of their class. After an award is made, that student is assigned an Avodian as a mentor, who follows the student for the four years of schooling and is there as an advisor and helper as needed. Many of our members have been prior award winners themselves and become mentors for the new awardees. The mentor program also grooms the student to be part of the “Avoda Family” and not to forget the role Avoda played in their life.
The members each pay annual dues. The members and some non-members make donations to Avoda in honor of birthdays, anniversaries, births, graduation, etc. Many make donations for condolences. These donations are listed in the newsletter. Acknowledgement cards are sent to the recipients of the donations and this helps keep the process going. Over the years, members and past award winners made sizable donations, which was invested in the market. Over the years, this investment portfolio has grown to a sizeable amount. By combining the interest on the investments with the dues and the donations, the club is able to afford the sizable award total. The club does no outside fundraising and does not solicit donations from outside foundations as this would change the nature of the club and affect the control the members have over the allocation of funds. Many of our members have also included Avoda in their estate.
The club continually tries to keep in contact with prior award winners and we include them in our newsletter email distribution.
One interesting story – one of our members went to see a neurosurgeon in Philadelphia several years ago. While chatting, the member told the surgeon that he lived in Margate, New Jersey and was active in a club called Avoda. The surgeon then said that he was a prior award winner and that if not for Avoda, he would not be a neurosurgeon today.
So, in summary, even though Avoda is a tax exempt charitable foundation, it is the social
aspect and the constant reminder via the meetings and newsletters that continued participation in the club allows the club to continue its remarkable admirable mission.