- Posted January 29, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Tell us the Good Stuff!
Bruce Karatz: Enabler
Bruce Karatz inspires a highly intelligent breed of giving. Karatz is a man that has spent a large part of his life making; in his tenure as CEO of a KB Homes, he oversaw a nation-wide company expansion in the award-winning construction ("Most Admired Homebuilder" -Fortune Magazine) of roughly 500,000 homes from 1986 to 2006. He also made a fortune for himself, earning an average of about $40 million per year during this time. Karatz then turned, as many of the ultra-rich do, to giving. He has worked diligently throughout his life to support a large number of charities, serving as a board member or chairman to several different charity councils. But Karatz is not one to simply write checks.
What are the things that a man is most proud of? I'm not talking about a zing of pleasure or happiness, but rather that pulsing sense of self-satisfaction and bona fide dignity. I would argue that two of those things are owning a home and being able to create wealth for you and your loved ones. Unfortunately, there are many people in the world that either do not have access to these things, or were stripped of these possibilities by ill-fortune or self-inflicted opportunity loss.
These are the people that Bruce Karatz consistently aides. An early construction charity effort is reflected in his assistance with the rebuilding of Camp Hollywood Land after the Los Angeles riots in 1992. This was a rustic canyon retreat for inner-city children whose main hall, dining room and other structures were gutted by fire. His position at the wheel of KB Home allowed him to provide shelter for those that had it taken from them.
In December 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Karatz directed that KB Home become the first, and at that time only, national home builder to go to New Orleans to support re-building efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. KB Home acquired 74 finished lots in downtown New Orleans and bought 3,000 acres in Jefferson Parish. Karatz is a man who has a history of acting quickly when a need is present. Of the Katrina incident, he said, "I personally felt it was important for a company like ours to do something, because if we waited for others, we could be waiting a long time. And if we're successful, it will motivate others.”
This sense of urgency is also observed in his initial contact with Homeboy Industries, the charity in which he has been most personally involved. Homeboy is a non-profit organization which provides a second chance to formerly incarcerated gang members by training them to re-enter society. In 2010, upon reading about the financial crisis they were experiencing in the LA Times, he immediately reached out to the former Mayor of LA to ask if he could be place into contact with Father Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries. “I think I might be able to help,” Karatz said. Now three years later, Karatz has played a vital role in transforming the organization's financial situation, establishing a retail line of chips and salsa currently selling in Ralph’s grocery stores across southern California, Homeboys cafeteria on the second floor of Los Angeles City Hall, creating a Homeboys Café and Bakery in the American Airlines terminal at LAX, and introducing a line of Homeboys baked goods sold at about 30 farmers markets.
"There's not enough money to fix everything," said Karatz. "You have to show an industry how it can make enough money to be self-sustaining. That's the secret." Karatz is certainly no ordinary man, and his position as a magnate in the construction industry and business provided him with special opportunities to help in ways that no one else could. However, I think that he can serve as an inspiration to us all; that we give of our personally unique competencies in a way that no one else can. And that we give not only of our time, money, or influence, but of our human spirit.