Communities look to ‘Local Heroes’ to create a better future

Article

September 8, 2020

By Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, President, Charles Schwab Foundation

Growing up, my dad taught me that the future is yours to create. If you get involved and take charge of the choices you face, you can achieve the future you want.

It’s not just a philosophy but a way of life. And there are very special individuals who passionately live this philosophy. These advocates for change define their lives by what they can create for others. They listen. They guide. They encourage. And they do so without giving it a second thought.

At Schwab we believe these heroes should be honored. That’s why we created Local Heroes, a program that celebrates individuals who dedicate their lives to helping others. These difference-makers educate, advocate for, and lift up those in need, helping people in their communities build better futures. Nominated by Schwab employees, Local Hero recipients are honored with a grant of $25,000 to the nonprofit organization with which they are associated, providing support for some of the most vulnerable members of their communities. Schwab also provides volunteer support through CommUNITY 2020, a program that includes virtual volunteering and pro bono work, while also helping raise awareness of our Local Heroes and the causes they support.

Please join us in celebrating our Local Heroes!

Local Heroes


Rob Bingham

Colorado Veterans Project (Denver)

Each year in Colorado, as many as 50,000 people transition out of active military duty to civilian life. Government does a lot for our veterans but there are gaps in those services. Rob Bingham, a combat veteran who currently serves as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army, founded Colorado Veterans Project (CVP), to help bridge those gaps. CVP is Denver’s largest nonprofit organization focused on raising money and awareness for local veterans and veteran organizations. Working side-by-side with the City and County of Denver, as well as with veterans organizations, Bingham has made a significant impact. CVP hosts three major fundraising events annually with thousands of participants and attendees paying tribute to our fallen heroes. Participants donate food to help feed local veterans, and push themselves to compete in 5k, 10k, and 30k runs.

Bingham has always had a kinship with our nation’s veterans and has always answered the call to serve, both on a personal and a professional level. His selfless attitude is an inspiration, and his positive influence on the Denver veteran community makes him a true hero.

To learn about Schwab’s commitment to Veterans, click here.

"I think we did 138,000 pounds of food that we've been able to donate to help feed homeless veterans. It's quite amazing."


Elena Zee

Arizona Council on Economic Education (Phoenix)

“When you don’t have any choice, life is very simple,” said Elena Zee, president and CEO of The Arizona Council on Economic Education (ACEE). “When there are more choices, there are more responsibilities.” Zee grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. She later immigrated to the United States, worked in financial services, and eventually pursued homeownership. Confused by the mortgage process and terminology, she says, “Here I am working in the financial services industry. If I was so confused by it, I’m sure most people are. I started to see the serious lack of financial literacy in the community. We need to change that. It is as important as reading, writing, and math. We need to put that education into schools.”

Under Zee’s leadership, ACEE provides educational resources and support to teachers and parents across Arizona, which is one of the few states to require K-12 students to take some form of personal finance and economics course. In addition to the events and resources developed by ACEE, Zee has established a solid bond with the Arizona State Treasurer, Kimberly Yee, who has a passion for increasing financial education in schools across all districts and socioeconomic classes. Zee participates on the first-ever State Treasurer’s Financial Literacy Task Force, made up of community advocates who share the goal of giving people from all walks of life as many opportunities as possible to achieve financial security. The task force adopted recommendations on next steps to advance financial literacy in Arizona, resulting in the Governor of Arizona signing S.B. 1184 – the Financial Literacy Bill – into law, which is a significant milestone for Arizona.

To learn about Schwab’s commitment to financial literacy, click here.

"Someone told me about Arizona Council On Economic Education, whose mission is to make sure our children become financially, economically literate. And I remember thinking, we need to put that education into schools."


Karen Ranus

National Alliance on Mental Illness (Austin)

When Karen Ranus’s daughter struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, the family found a lifeline in The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Central Texas, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of individuals affected by mental illness. Once her daughter and family were on the road to recovery, Ranus accepted a leadership position with the very organization that helped her family. “Once I started sharing our story, I discovered so many other families struggling with the same isolation and shame we experienced,” Ranus said. “I try to get people enthusiastic and willing to share their story. When we do that, we create a whole community of people together saying, ‘I don’t need to be ashamed. And I’m not alone anymore.’”

Ranus is an advocate for individuals affected by mental illness and a dynamic leader committed to growing the educational, support, and advocacy programs offered by NAMI. Her vision of changing the mental health conversation is reflected in the successful programming she developed to provide people with the information and tools they need to have positive and proactive conversations about mental health at home, school, work and in faith communities. She has a strong commitment to develop partnerships with law enforcement, which has ensured officers in the Austin Police Department and Travis County Sheriff are receiving mental health training rooted in a deeper level of empathy, compassion and understanding for people in mental health crises.

"Suddenly I'm in this room with these people who are all navigating the same stuff and it was transformative. It wasn't what got my daughter to recovery but it transformed us as a family."

0920-0ESL