Seattle Man Who Lived a Frugal Existence Leaves $11 Million to Children’s Charities

March 4, 2019 Updated: March 15, 2019

There are numerous ways in which one  can give back to society or help the community. While there are those who do it with all the pomp and show, there are others who do it without a word. And very often it is the quiet ones who surprise everyone with their selfless deeds. This is the story of one such big-hearted soul.

Alan Naiman, a state social worker, spent most of his life in Seattle, Washington.

Folks who knew Naiman recall that he lived a frugal existence. He ate at fast food joints, bought his clothes at a grocery store, and duct-taped his shoes when they began to wear. Unknown to all, he was quietly saving his pennies for a greater cause.

©AP | Susan E. Madsen

Naiman never got married but kids were very dear to him, especially the ones who were sick, underprivileged, abandoned, and differently-abled.

When Naiman died of cancer in January 2018, people were surprised to learn that he left a whopping $11 million to children’s charities.

“He left it all to charities—mostly to kids, the section of society that couldn’t really help themselves,” his friend Shashi Karan, a friend from his banking days, told NPR.

©AP | Ted S. Warren

Naiman had an older brother with a developmental disability who passed away in 2013. Thus, people actually believe that a lifelong devotion to his older brother was what influenced him.

“Growing up as a kid with an older, disabled brother kind of colored the way he looked at things,” a close friend, Susan Madsen, told AP.

His modest lifestyle meant that nobody could guess how much wealth he had amassed. Naiman had worked as a banker, then at the Department of Social Health Services, and did many side jobs whenever he had the opportunity.

Naiman kept to himself mostly and was known for taking solitary trips.

He was saving and investing during all that time to make millions of dollars. Karan also said that he inherited quite a bit from his parents.

©AP | Shashi Karan

Naiman planned for making more solo trips and buying a house with a nice view. But those plans got washed away after he was diagnosed with cancer, according to CNN.

He then later spent his time researching charities instead.

The fact that how much good his money would do when the time came left Naiman feeling pleased.

“‘My gift is going to be bigger than their annual budget. It’s going to blow them away,’” Karan recalled him saying. “And it did.”

©AP | Ted S. Warren

After Naiman passed away, a select group of non-profits began receiving calls from his money managers.

Pediatric Interim Care Center, which cares for babies born to mothers who abuse drugs, received $2.5 million.

Naiman explained in his letter why he left them this generous donation. When Naiman was working for the Department of Social and Health Services, he had called the center about a newborn. The founder showed up in the middle of the night to take the baby.

“We would never dream that something like this would happen to us,” founder Barbara Drennen said. “I wish very much that I could have met him. I would have loved to have had him see the babies he’s protecting.”

©AP | Ted S. Warren

Treehouse, a foster care group, was also left surprised when they received a $900,000 gift from Naiman. He revealed that he had been a foster parent years ago, and had brought the kids on a shopping spree to their free-clothing store.

Jessica Ross, chief development officer for Treehouse, said: “The frugality that he lived through, that he committed to in his life, was for this. It’s really a gift to all of us to see that pure demonstration of philanthropy and love.”

Make-A-Wish, Childhaven, and Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center are some of the other charities that have benefited from his selfless act.

Naiman also contributed money to his parents’ Catholic church and to Disabled American Veterans, according to Karan.

“For someone to live their life the way Alan did—and then leave a legacy like this to so many worthy organizations—is an inspiration,” Ross said. “We’re so thankful to be a part of this. What a generous, loving man.”

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