by Suzanne Levi
An avid photographer from an early age, Chuck Frank still has a photograph of the tent he slept in during his first night under the stars. "It was at summer camp in northern Wisconsin. I was nine and can still remember the smell of bacon and eggs cooking in the great outdoors," says Frank, president of "Z" Frank Chevrolet of Chicago, one of the world’s largest Chevy dealers. "My experience that summer instilled my deep-seated passion for wilderness."
During college and graduate school, Frank hiked, camped and canoed with friends, then became a Sierra Club member in 1975. Seventeen years and dozens of wilderness trips later, he and his wife Debbie became Sierra Club Life Members.
Interested in having their estate planning reflect their "faith in the Club’s consistent work for the environment," the Franks designed a bequest to the Club with the help of the Gift Planning staff. But their involvement didn’t stop there.
In 1996, Frank joined The Sierra Club Foundation’s National Advisory Council, met with Dan Becker, director of the Club’s Global Warming Campaign, and began lobbying Congress and the White House for higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. Having a large car dealer on the Sierra Club side certainly gained the administration’s attention.
"It was a great opportunity to meet Club leaders and lobby," says Frank. "I was blown away! But I came away from with the feeling that while there was grassroots support in Illinois, the business community in Chicago was completely out of the loop."
He urged the Club to build relationships with the CEOs, presidents and board members of Chicago’s leading businesses -- those who control the purse strings of environmental philanthropy in the region. Working closely with Jesse Simons, the Club’s Advancement Director in the Midwest, Frank introduced dozens of business people in Chicago to the Sierra Club. "We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who are concerned about the environment but don’t know where to turn. We walk into their offices, connect with their passion for clean air and for smart growth, and find they are eager to hear more about Sierra Club," says Frank.
Frank hopes that his ongoing work in Chicago and his family’s bequest will inspire others to support the Club. To find out how you can plan a bequest, contact the Gift Planning staff at (415) 977-5639 or planned.giving@ sierraclub.org. More about Planned Giving.
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