The Whitmore Agency CEO James C. Metzger and Bruderman Chairman Matthew J. Bruderman. (Photo by Jennifer Uihlein)

Lending a hand to local charitable organizations is something that The Whitmore Agency CEO James C. Metzger and Bruderman Asset Management Chairman Matthew J. Bruderman have both been doing for many years.

The latest nonprofit that the Long Island business leaders are lending a hand to is The Book Fairies, a Freeport-based organization founded by Amy Zaslansky in 2012 as a solution for teachers who were spending their own money to buy books for students without home libraries.Metzger and Bruderman are making a significant monetary donation to The Book Fairies as part of a three-year pledge. They recently presented the initial check to the organization. The mission of The Book Fairies is to collect reading materials for people in need throughout metropolitan New York.

“Those reading materials foster literacy and academic success, provide a respite from personal struggles, and nurture a love of reading across age groups,” according to the organization.

“For too long we had been existing as an almost all-volunteer operation, distributing almost 3 million books, without focusing on fundraising — and that formula is not sustainable,” according to Eileen Minogue, executive director of The Book Fairies. “As an organization we decided two years ago to work towards sustainability and scaling,” she said, adding, “This donation from Jim and Matt enables us to to better fill the needs of those we serve by building on our infrastructure, hire additional support staff, and increase efficiency. We are so grateful for their investment in our mission, both financially and via their strategic ideas. Their desire to merge purpose with their daily business life if refreshing and inspiring.”

The Book Fairies is “going to build out our monthly Community Book Fairs where we open our warehouse to educators who can take as many books as they need,” she said. It also has unique projects it started that she noted “will bring books directly into the communities, such as a pilot program with the Suffolk and Nassau County Police Departments and food distribution organizations.”

Metzger and Bruderman recently spoke with us about why they decided to donate to The Book Fairies, why philanthropy is so important to them, and more.

Why is your philanthropic work so important to you and what kind of organizations have you supported in the past? James Metzger: I have been very fortunate in my life and am in a position to give back. I’m very involved with athletics at my alma maters Half Hollow Hills High School and Hofstra University, as well as St. Anthony’s [High School], which I’m closely aligned with. And then I often get involved with my clients’ communities. It’s a win-win-win. It helps my clients, the community and I think it strengthens [The Whitmore Agency’s] brand. To involve ourselves in that way helps create a positive image. It feels good to be involved with an organization like The Book Fairies. I think the money is going right where you want it to. I think they’re doing great work and I’m happy and gratified to become involved.

Matthew Bruderman: [My family has] done philanthropic work, anonymously, for many years. Our foundation’s mission is to basically support other charities. There are so many wonderful charities out there doing great work that my family didn’t feel like we needed to start another charity. We wanted to support charities that were already doing good work like The Book Fairies or Ronald McDonald House or so many others. There are so many homeless organizations that we work with that have food banks and food pantries and homeless shelters. Those people that are on the front line need capital. They need resources and, because of my family’s deep contacts throughout industry, we’re able to get things. Once, we were able to donate a lot of MRIs for people who couldn’t afford it. We’re able to get people to donate food. We’re able to donate clothing so homeless women can have a nice outfit to go get a job, or clothe people that don’t have clothes. We produce a lot of clothing, we donate and we get others to donate to different causes that are then able to get the clothing into the hands of people who need it. My kids and I right now are actually working on a line of homeless clothing that’s purpose-built just to give to homeless people. So we’re designing outerwear that turns into a sleeping bag [for example].

Getting involved with The Book Fairies is a bit different than your other cause-related efforts. How did you become aware of The Book Fairies and why did you decide to donate to it? JM: We were impressed with its mission and what it’s been doing with respect to getting books into the hands of the underserved and a cross-section of society that doesn’t have access to books and we decided to make a donation to the organization. I think it’s extremely and it’s changing young peoples’ lives. My community service is not solely based on my clients’ communities. It’s a combination of supporting my clients’ communities as well as the charities and causes that, over time, have become important to me or I’ve developed some passion for – whether it’s diabetes, cancer, or another specific disease prevention.

MB: We like to support things locally. Jim told me about it and I decided to go out and check it out. So we actually went there and I thought it was amazing what these people were able to develop. I think, with Jim and I, with our relationships and some capital, that we can make an impact by donating and helping to continue its cause. I actually think that reading is extremely important – especially for young people. Spending the time with a young child to read them a book every night like I did lays the foundation. The research shows that if a parent reads to a child, the child tends to be literate and go on to higher education, so it’s a leading-by-example thing. For us, the fact that [The Book Fairies is] getting books into peoples’ hands is just a great societal effort. Guys like me have it easier. We can write a check and people think that’s great, but that takes about 5 seconds — these people are donating their time, doing the hard work and helping do something good and taking the time out of their days away from their families. So that’s why we love these smaller charities that are kind of bootstrapping. The people behind them are really special, special people. So we love to help.

I understand you are an avid reader, Jim. What do you like to read? JM: I’m both a bibliophile and a voracious reader. In my teens, I read really almost exclusively about sports and then, during college and after college, I began to develop an appreciation for literature. In my 20s, I became a voracious reader. I think writers have that ability to formulate their thoughts on paper in a way that gives you a different window into life and the human psyche even.

How long have you known each other and how did you meet? JM: Two-and-a-half or three years. We became very close in a short period of time. I own a substantial insurance brokerage and Matt was an insurance client of mine and, from there, we became partners in deals and I became an investor in some of his companies.

MB: I was introduced to him through someone as an insurance specialist. Because we have so many different private companies, we didn’t want to have gaps in coverage and we’re in a lot of different industries. So they suggested Jim’s firm could handle our risk management and look at all of our insurance needs across all of our companies, which they did do, and they were exceptional. So then, after that, Jim and I have sort of become fast friends.

TO HELP SUPPORT THE BOOK FAIRIES

The Book Fairies is always looking for people who want to join its efforts. If you are interested in running the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7, it has three spots currently available for 2021. Or if you would like to run a book drive, create a fundraiser for The Book Fairies, or get involved in other ways, you can email it at eileen@thebookfairies.org.

1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. Source: dosomething.org

Children from middle-income homes have on average 13 books per child. There is only one book for every 300 children in low-income neighborhoods. Source: Handbook of Early Literacy

61% of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes. Source: Reading Literacy in the United States: Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study, 1996.

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