The Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona announced last week that the Shaol & Evelyn Pozez Endowment Fund has received a multi-million dollar bequest from the Pozez estate. Thirty-six nonprofit organizations have been named as beneficiaries and will receive an initial distribution in early 2013. These beneficiaries, which provide services to both the Jewish and non-Jewish community, include nonprofits in Tucson, throughout the country and in Israel. “All of these organizations will benefit in perpetuity from this funding, which will help them continue to provide for those they serve,” says Carol Karsch, JCF executive director.
Shaol Pozez, who died on Nov. 15, 1999, and his wife, Evie, who died on Dec. 17, 2010, moved to Tucson in 1984 to be near Shaol’s cousin Louis and his wife, Ruthann, who had settled here previously. Evie was born in Iowa City, Iowa, and graduated from the University of Iowa before moving to Tulsa, Okla., where she met Shaol. She was a passionate Zionist who strongly supported Jewish causes, notes Karsch. With her husband, Evie was instrumental in the building of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona campus, Tucson Hebrew Academy and the Tucson Jewish Community Center. She helped establish the Lion of Judah division of Women’s Philanthropy at the Federation and served on many boards within the community. In the greater Tucson community, she supported the Angel Charity for Children, Inc. and the El Rio Health Center Foundation, among others.
Shaol and Louis founded and operated Payless Shoes. This enterprise started with one store in Topeka, Kansas in 1956, went public in 1962 with 32 stores, and eventually had 5,000 stores in the United States, Canada and overseas. Not only was Shaol a major leader in the Tucson community, says Karsch, lending wisdom and support to a wide range of social, cultural, political, and educational endeavors, he was also an active philanthropist in his hometown of Topeka. “Shaol and Evie’s lives made a difference and had a tremendous impact for good in the world through their lifelong tradition of tikkun olam, ‘repairing the world,’ making it a better place for everyone. As true leaders of the community, they set a wonderful example,” says Karsch.
Karsch recalls how Shaol and Evie quietly initiated projects and supported virtually every organization and event. “Evie was the first to RSVP, always with a kind remark, and Shaol was invariably the first to applaud a speaker, charismatically leading the crowd and urging action.
“On Oct. 14, 1991, the very first signing night for the Endowment Book of Life, Evie and Shaol signed page 25, emotionally toasting, ‘L’Chaim’ and committing to support their many causes even beyond their own lifetimes,” says Karsch.
The Foundation’s total assets exceed $65 million and, from inception, it has distributed more than $64 million in grants to more than 500 nonprofit organizations supporting both Jewish and non-Jewish causes in Tucson, Israel, nationally and throughout the world.