James A. Sweet - Leaving a Legacy

By Harriet Rothman, Chief Development Officer, Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC

Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC

When the Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC was asked to submit an article for this first edition of the JCamp 180 Legacy Newsletter, we jumped at the chance and knew right away who our article would be about. Jim Sweet knows what it means to leave a Jewish legacy.

Jim has been involved with Camp Interlaken and the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center for many years. He served as treasurer of the JCC's Board of Directors and on the Camp Interlaken Committee as a member and chair. In 1979, Jim's eldest daughter Tracy loved Camp so much that she decided to have her Bat Mitzvah there. That same year, Jim established the James A. Sweet Camp Interlaken JCC Scholarship Endowment Fund to help defray the cost of Camp for the campers most in need so that they could experience the ruach that his daughter was experiencing. 

Tracy grew up at Camp Interlaken spending 15 memorable summers there as a camper and staff member. Sadly, Tracy passed away in April, 2007 after a courageous battle with cancer. During the dark days, after her bone marrow transplant, her fellow campers and staff mates dropped everything to fly to Minneapolis and spend days, or in some cases a week, with Tracy… and no one left without singing a Camp song with her. Throughout the hospital hallways one could hear "Rad Hayom" and if you peeked in the room you would find everyone holding hands in a circle.

Jim Sweet changed the name of his endowment fund to the Tracy Sweet Camp Interlaken JCC Scholarship Endowment Fund in her loving memory, and he began to think of ways to fulfill his mission of growing the Endowment to help more of the most needy scholarship applicants. One very meaningful way is that Jim and his wife Elaine have signed a Legacy Promise. Jim is also getting creative at growing this fund.

 Two years ago, Jim issued a challenge - a $25,000 matching grant if Camp raised $25,000 for the Fund.  We used a list Jim provided, as well as Camp lists. We publicized the challenge, wrote personal letters with reply envelopes, and updated our online giving page to highlight the match. Through a network of friends and campers that Tracy and the Sweet family had touched over the years, we raised the match. It was our first match for Camp outside of JCamp 180 matching grant challenges. For his 75th birthday this year, Jim's children surprised him by collecting donations for the Fund in his honor. They wanted at least 75 gifts and $7,500. They surpassed that goal and raised over $10,000!

 So many have been touched by this endowment - $68,000 in scholarships has been made available through this fund in the last eleven years. This endowment, through Jim's careful attention to market trends and his own generous annual donations remains our single largest scholarship endowment fund. We have so many heartwarming testimonials from campers.  One of our favorites truly captures the heart of Camp:

"What I love about our camp family is that when we sit around the campfire site, everyone's arms around each other, you feel this huge sense of belonging and comfort…"

 Jim Sweet has taught us to be better donor stewards and challenged us to think bigger. Through his generosity, determination, and forethought, he has created a lasting legacy that will keep his and Tracy's names in our hearts and minds for years to come.  Jim's goal would be that long after he is gone, people will want to give to this fund not because of Jim Sweet, but because of all the good it does for our community's campers most in need of scholarship.