Fru­gal so­cial worker do­nates $11M es­tate to chil­dren’s char­i­ties

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Nation - BY SALLY HO


Alan Naiman was known for an un­abashed thrifti­ness that veered into com­i­cal, but even those clos­est to him had no inkling of the for­tune that he qui­etly amassed and the last act that he had long planned.

The Wash­ing­ton state so­cial worker died of can­cer this year at age 63, leav­ing most of a sur­pris­ing $11 mil­lion es­tate to chil­drens’ char­i­ties that help the poor, sick, dis­abled and aban­doned. The amount baf­fled the ben­e­fi­cia­ries and his best friends, who are laud­ing Naiman as the an­niver­sary of his death ap­proaches in Jan­uary.

That’s be­cause the Seat­tle man patched up his shoes with duct tape, sought deals at the gro­cery store deli at clos­ing time and took his best friends out to lunch at fast-food joints.

Naiman, who died un- mar­ried and child­less, loved kids but also was in­tensely pri­vate, scrimp­ing, in­vest­ing and work­ing ex­tra jobs to stock­pile money that he rarely spent on him­self af­ter see­ing how un­fair life could be for the most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, his friends say.

They be­lieve a life­long de­vo­tion to his older brother who had a de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­ity in­flu­enced Naiman, though he rarely spoke of it. The brother died in 2013, the same year Naiman splurged on a sports car — a modestly priced Scion FR-S.

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

A for­mer banker, Naiman worked the past two decades at the state Depart­ment of So­cial and Health Ser­vices, han­dling af­ter-hours calls. He earned $67,234 and also took on side gigs, some­times work­ing as many as three jobs. He saved and in­vested enough to make sev­eral mil­lions of dol­lars and also in­her­ited mil­lions more from his par­ents, said Shashi Karan, a friend from his bank­ing days.

Thrilled when he fi­nally qual­i­fied for se­nior dis­counts, Naiman bought his clothes from the gro­cery store. He loved cars, but for the most of his life, drove beat-up ve­hi­cles and seemed to en­joy the soli­tude and sav­ings of solo road trips, friends say.

Many of the or­ga­ni­za­tions ben­e­fit­ing from Naiman’s gifts said they didn’t know him, though they had crossed paths.

He left $2.5 mil­lion to the Pe­di­atric In­terim Care Cen­ter, a pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tion in Wash­ing­ton state that cares for ba­bies born to moth­ers who abused drugs and helps the chil­dren wean off their de­pen­dence. The group used some of what was its largest do­na­tion ever to pay off a mort­gage and buy a new ve­hi­cle to trans­port the 200 ba­bies it ac­cepts from hos­pi­tals each year.

Naiman had called the cen­ter about a new­born while work­ing for the state more than a decade ago, and its founder, Barbara Dren­nen, showed up in the mid­dle of the night to get the baby.

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

Naiman gave $900,000 to the Treehouse foster care or­ga­ni­za­tion, telling them that he was a foster par­ent years ago and had brought kids in his care to the group’s pop­u­lar ware­house, where wards of the state can choose toys and ne­ces­si­ties for free.

Treehouse is us­ing Naiman’s money to ex­pand its col­lege and ca­reer coun­sel­ing statewide.

“The fru­gal­ity that he lived through, that he com­mit­ted to in his life, was for this,” said Jes­sica Ross, Treehouse’s chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer.

SHASHI KARAN via AP File, 2013

Alan Naiman splurged on a car four years be­fore his death but saved enough to do­nate an es­tate worth $11 mil­lion.

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