Thirty Years of Giving

As Joe Shank reflects on the 30 years that his club, Almaden Valley Athletic Club (AVAC) in San Jose, CA, has been in business, he recalls the effect his club's community involvement has had on the lives of individuals outside the club's walls. AVAC's charitable activities began more than 20 years ago with donations of free memberships to local schools as auction items at fundraisers.

Through the years, the club has also raised $50,000 for the Special Olympics and $30,000 for the American Heart Association. At one time, the club participated in an adopt-a-school program in which AVAC staff visited schools to talk about healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, bike safety and other health issues.

From 1985 to 1990, the club hosted the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) Boys and Girls Hard Courts Tournament, which donated proceeds to the Northern California Tennis Association, a group that teaches children how to play tennis. In 1990, two AVAC members started the National Tennis Championships Tournament at the club, raising about $10,000 per year for underprivileged children.

When a new cause arises, AVAC has been there. In 2001, AVAC raised $20,000 for the Twin Tower Orphan group for children who lost a parent in the Sept. 11th attacks. In 2005, the club raised $20,000 for the victims of the December 2004 tsunami in Asia. In 2005, AVAC hosted a program to benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation, which supports leadership training for college-aged men and women. Tillman, a professional football player who was killed while serving in the military in Iraq, had been a member of AVAC.

The club's charitable activities with its main cause — Hospice of the Valley — earned it the Distinguished Volunteer Fundraiser award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2005. Since 2003, the club has raised $55,000 for the hospice through a Celebration of Life event that includes educational and social activities.

Shank sees the involvement as a way to give back to the community. He leads by example, having funded (along with his business partner at the time) the building of a 3,500-square-foot fitness center at his former high school in Oregon.

The payback for community involvement is simple: the gratification of helping others, Shank said.

“We've been successful in our business, and we want people to be healthy and successful in their endeavors,” he said.