Modified: March 04, 2013 1:02 PM
Sports lover's gift helps school, honors family
At age 11, Alan Helfman started doing odd jobs at his dad's store, Helfman River Oaks Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Houston.
Helfman, a lifelong sports enthusiast, recently honored his late father, Jack Helfman, and his brother-in-law Nason Feldman, who owned and managed Helfman Car Dealerships, by helping to build an athletic field for Emery/Weiner School in Houston.
The Helfman family contributed $1 million-plus for an artificial turf football/multisports field at the private Jewish academy for middle and high school students. When complete, the project will be named Helfman Field.
"This is certainly one of the largest gifts we've received in the 13 years the school has been open," said Stuart Dow, president of Emery/Weiner School. "In this economy, the gift is huge."
In the fall, 600 guests attended Emery/ Weiner's 12th annual Joy of Education dinner in the school gymnasium to thank Helfman's family. The event also raised more than $590,000 for other projects.
In a region with more than 200 dealerships, Helfman stands out as a fundraiser, averaging an event a month for the past 25 years.
Other than Helfman Field, his favorite charity is the Houston Police Department. He bought the department a $5,000 bomb-sniffing dog, two $5,000 horses and 17 tourniquets for binding wounds. Donations also went to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and the Harris County Sheriff. Helfman's office walls are covered with honorary plaques.
"You can't go through life without helping people," Helfman said.
He runs the group's flagship Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram store, which sells about 2,000 new 1,000 used vehicles a year.
He also watches as his nephews, nieces and a couple of his sons enter the car business, but not without some lessons about giving back to the community.
"They are part of these fundraisers,'' said Helfman, whose dad opened the current dealership in 1972. "It is good training for them to give back. We've been blessed to be in the position we are in, a tradition started by my grandfather, who ran a used-car lot."