BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — As executor of his brother’s will, Herbert Schlein had the opportunity to read the thank-you letters from the large charities to which his brother had left money.
“We got a couple of them that sounded like they came out of a computer,” he said. “They were kind of perfunctory.”
The impersonal nature of those letters convinced Schlein and his wife, Jan, that they would prefer to donate their money to smaller, local organizations that aren’t as accustomed to such giving.
The Beverly Children’s Learning Center is the first beneficiary of that line of thinking. The school recently announced that Herb and Jan Schlein have pledged $100,000 to the organization, which will mark its 40th anniversary in 2013.
The school started in the basement of St. Peter’s Church in 1973 as a way to provide child care for families that could otherwise not afford it.
“It’s wonderful news for us as a school,” said Robert Guyer, the treasurer of Beverly Children’s Learning Center and one of its founding members. “The school is not well-known in town because of the audience it serves, mostly low-income and single-parent families.”
The Schleins selected the learning center in part because Jan Schlein is also one of the school’s founding members and served on its board for several years.
The school is now located at the Cummings Center and serves 160 children from ages 6 months to 14 years. It has a staff of about 30 and an annual budget of $1.6 million.
Guyer said most of the school’s funding comes from the state and federal government. The contribution by the Schleins, which will be given in installments starting with $20,000 this year, will enable the school to increase training for teachers and enrichment programs for students.
“We’re mandated by the state to meet new standards, but we don’t always have the wherewithal to get people trained for it,” Guyer said. “This will be an opportunity to have some cash to use for things the state funding doesn’t cover.”
The Schleins’ generosity is not all that surprising given their longtime involvement in the community. As a volunteer at Beverly Hospital, Herb, an 85-year-old retired chemist, has installed Lifeline telephones for senior citizens and people with disabilities. He has also assisted with the city’s hazardous waste program for more than 25 years.
Jan Schlein, 82, worked for 27 years as a librarian with the Beverly Public Schools and is a former president of the Beverly League of Women Voters.
The couple plan to continue to focus on local organizations as they contemplate where to direct contributions in the future, Herb Schlein said. He’s hoping that others will consider doing the same.
“If we could shake people up that there are local things to give money to, that’s one of the messages I would like to get out,” he said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.