gerald fogelson

‘It’s About Helping Other Human Beings’

Philanthropist Jerry Fogelson calls on peers to help families struggling to pay for basic needs during the pandemic.

Steven Biller Current Digital, Social Scene

gerald fogelson

Migrant farmworkers have been hit hard by the pandemic.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GETTY IMAGES

Sure, Jerry Fogelson feels the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He limits in-person contact with friends, family, and business colleagues and misses attending the social and cultural events that light up the Coachella Valley.

But he hasn’t lost his livelihood or struggled to pay for basics such as food and rent like tens of thousands of other residents in the desert communities — people he wants to help through a grant program he’s launching through his family foundation.

“It’s about helping other human beings,” says Fogelson, a Rancho Mirage resident and familiar personality on the philanthropic scene. “We could never enjoy the lifestyle we that enjoy without our working people, including the front-line workers. The government isn’t doing enough to help these people.”

So, Fogelson took the matter into his own hands, establishing the Family Assistance Plan to raise and distribute funds to help individuals and families to help pay for their basic needs. Jewish Family Services of the Desert is managing the applications and payments.

The plan offers qualifying households between $500 and $1,000 to spend on necessities such as food, medication, rent, utilities, and minor household repairs. To qualify, a household must have at least three full-time residents; reduced or eliminated incomes due to the pandemic; and a combined family income at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Line — which describes thousands of local households.

“When I saw the numbers,” he says, referring to statistics on local layoffs and furloughs of employees at hotels, restaurants, attractions, and events that shuttered during the pandemic, “I wanted to do something that would give other people who have the ability to help a place to go to do so.”

Fogelson, who enjoyed a 65-year career that landed him in the Chicago Real Estate Hall of Fame, sits on the boards of JFS, DAP Health (formerly Desert AIDS Project), and Desert Town Hall lecture series in Indian Wells. In the past few years, the Fogelson Family Foundation has also contributed to Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs Cultural Center, and, most significantly, Palm Springs Unified School District, for which he funded a program to curb bullying, obesity, and other youth issues by promoting socialization and problem-solving skills through organized play during recess.

“There are people who give substantial amounts to the theater and the museum, and that’s important, too,” says Fogelson, counting himself among these donors. “But if I can get my message across about the needs we have in our community, we can raise a significant amount of money for so many people who are struggling, desperate, and out of options.”

For information or to make a contribution to the Family Assistance Plan, call 760-325-4088, ext. 107, email FAP@jfsdesert.org, or visit jfsdesert.org/family-assistance-program.