Sam Zherka

“Sam Zherka was my childhood mentor.”

By: Melissa Williams

Real estate investor Andrew Fernandez, who has know Sam Zherka for the past 20 years, calls Zherka his childhood mentor. He also mentioned, that although Zherka has been someone to look up to for years, he has also been a pillar in his Bronx Community for much longer. Fernandez describes Zherka as someone who was always watching out for the neighborhood by providing employment for locals. Fernandez claims Zherka was known as a business man who would get teenagers off the street by keeping them employed. “When I went looking for a job, it was only natural that I started at his door,” said Fernandez.

“Sam started me off handing out flyers and he must have seen potential in me because he would take time out to talk about my future plans. I would often find myself sitting in his office having conversations about my friendships and my life’s decisions. Before I knew it, I was believing in myself in a new, confident way,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez can remember how lucky he felt to have met an adult who praised and encouraged him. “When Sam and I parted ways, I remember not taking his advice, but figured I would navigate my life my way. After years of floundering, I got myself into real estate; a venture that Sam was extremely proud of me for. When I opened my own office, I surrounded myself with positive affirmations, a touch straight out of Sam’s own office.”

Fernandez stated that as his real estate business began to flourish, he could not help but reflect on all the advice given to him by his mentor Sam Zherka over the years. “I often find myself trying to pay forward the opportunity and respect Sam gave to me. Whether it is hiring high school kids to answer phones or to hand out door flyers, Sam’s influence on my life and others is never far. He has been invaluable in encouraging me to be the man I want to be, and the man I am. His constant friendship emboldened me, and as an adult and successful entrepreneur his influences are never far from my daily routine,” says Fernandez.

Fernandez concluded with stating that Zherka helped a young teenager become a man without any reason other than he thought it was the right thing to do, guiding, and nurturing him. Fernandez believes he is a successful business man today because Sam was able to take the time to show him the way.

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David Murdock

“Murdock has stated that he plans to live until the age of 125.”

By: Melissa Williams

David Murdock was born on April 11, 1923 inKansas City, Missouri, and is the son of a traveling salesman. He is one out of three children and was very close to his mother, who passed away at the young age of 42, from cancer. Murdock, who is dyslexic, believe it or not, was a high school drop out. His freshman year of high school, he dropped out to begin working at a gas station before he was drafted into the Army in 1943. After World War II, Murdock was able to make a small profit after he bought and sold a diner. He later developed property in Arizona. He still owns several residential and commercial properties in Arizona, as well as in California, Florida, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

In 1985 Murdock took over Hawaiian firm Castle & Cooke, who owned pineapple and banana producer Dole Food Company, which was nearly bankrupt at the time, and turned  it’s real estate portfolio into residential and commercial properties. This eventually lead to Dole becoming the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables. In April 2016, the U.S Department of Justice initiated an investigation into his Dole Foods, following a listeria outbreak cause by its packages salads, which left one person dead, and several others sickened.

Murdock has stated that he plans to live until the age of 125, and has made large donations to longevity research.

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Sam Zherka

“From sleeping in the car, to becoming the owner of not one but two restaurants, Sam Zherka and his mom and dad gave me hope.”

By: Melissa Williams

After a falling out with his aunt and uncle, Emilio Delija found himself living in an old car on the street in the Bronx, New York. Delija who is an immigrant from Yugoslavia, was only 20 years old at the time and had little to no prospects in what was a foreign country to him. It was 1987, and Delija felt like a complete stranger, in a stranger place. He had only been here for about three or four days before running into Sam Zherka. “I was acquainted with him as a fellow Albanian,” he recalled. “But I never really knew him, and he did not really know me either. He asked me what had happened to me and why I was living out of a car. Before I could even answer him, he told me to grab my things and to come with him.” Zherka told Delija that a car was no place to live. He took Delija to his home in Yonkers, New York, where he lived with his parents, siblings, and grandmother. Zherka gave Delija his room and told him he could stay there until he was able to get his own place. “The Zherka’s gave me a roof over my head and fed me as if I was part of the family,” said Delija. “I barley spoke any English back then, but I found a friend in Sam and his family. I was barely out of my teens at the time, with no place to go, no place to live, and no family to help me. Sam and his mom and dad gave me hope. They protected me and helped me get back on my feet. After several months of working I was able to save enough money to get my own place to live,” said Delija. After years of working in restaurants Delija was able to finally own his own restaurant, and now is the owner of two restaurants, one in Ardsley and another in Irvington. “I never forgot Sam and what his family did for me,” he concluded.iStock-509553578.jpg

Sam Zherka

“His willingness to help a stranger in her darkest hours is testament to the kind of person he is.”

By: Melissa Williams

Sam Zherka helped a terminally ill single mother maintain essential health insurance. The loss of her city job as well as health benefits, was a life threatening crisis for Theresa Reid. Reid, who at the time was a single parent to four children, was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Reid firmly believed she was fired from her job in May 2010 for political reasons, when she supported a friend for judge over the Democratic Party’s candidate. She later found herself unemployed for the first time in her life. She also lost her health insurance just when she needed the most, and COBRA payments were over $700 per month.

Following a pulmonary embolism in May 2009, Reid needed PET/CT scans to track the status of her illness, and this was in addition to being on expensive medication in order to stay alive. Without insurance, her medications ran about $4000 per month and her other insurance did not cover the scans she needed. Reid began to take her medications sparingly, every other day and eventually every third day in order to make the prescriptions last longer, especially because she did not know how much longer she would be able to afford COBRA.

Reid met Zherka through a mutual friend, and as soon as he heard about how she had been fired and her struggles when it came to her health benefits, Zherka became visibly upset his eyes swelled with tears. “When I saw that, I knew I was not alone,” she recalled. “His words and emotions were uplifting, but he did so much more. He put money in my hand and said that if I do not find employment that could provide health benefits, he would pay for my benefits.”

“I broke down and cried at how generous he could be to a complete stranger,” she recalled. Reid had just met Zherka that same day, and although they did have a mutual friend, she said that his actions were still way above and beyond what she could have ever expected. “Mr. Zherka, out of nowhere offered to pay my COBRA, and put enough money in my hand to be able to buy groceries for my family.”

Reid was overwhelmed by Zherka’s generosity, she mentioned how she has never had someone offer her kindness of that sort, and that she will never ever forget him for that reason. She knows Mr.Zherka has a good heart and that he is a good man. This is a man that out the goodness of his heart, reached out to help a stranger. “I love Sam Zherka, he is a beautiful person. He is a decent, caring, and kind man that has a heart as big as anyone’s. His willingness to help a stranger in her darkest hours is testament to the kind of person he is” she ended.

Sadly Reid lost her battle with cancer in March of 2016.

Helping hand.

Bruce Halle

“Halle is the richest man in Arizona, with an estimated net worth of $6 billion.”

By: Melissa Williams

Bruce Halle is the founder of Discount Tire, a business he was able to start with just six tires in a showroom in Michigan, back in 1960. Today, Halle’s company has over 900 stores and an estimated $4.2 billion in revenues. Halle was raised in a catholic home with 7 other siblings during the Great Depression. Growing up Halle delivered newspapers, cut grass, and even dug graves in order to help out, and support his family. He later went on to serve in the Marines  during the Korean War, and was also able to get a degree in business administration from East Michigan University. Halle has a scholarship program called Bruce T. Halle Scholarship, which permits every child of a Discount Tire employee the opportunity to attend college.

As of 2014, Halle is the richest man in Arizona, with an estimated net worth of $6 billion. In 2016, he decided to donate one million dollars to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy in an effort to stop cannabis legalization in Arizona.

Set of tires

 

Sam Zherka

“Sam Zherka achieved the American Dream and wants others to do so as well.”

By: Melissa Williams

Antonella Zherka, who has been married to Sam Zherka’s brother for the past 17 years, says that she has known Sam for many years, and knows him to be a loving family man. She also stated, that over the time she has known him, he has always treated her as a sister, and never hesitated to be there for her or her family. “He told me once that his door would always be open for me and I can tell you, with great certainty, that it always has been” she stated. Antonella explained how she would not be able to count the times that she has had to go to his office unannounced, and despise his busy day to day schedule, she said Sam always made time to discuss her concerns. She explained that Sam came from an immigrant family, and that growing up with both parents working two jobs in order to be able to provide for their 8 kids, only further drove Sam to become the successful businessman he is today. She added that Sam has not only helped her and those close to her, but that he also constantly provides others with some of the opportunities he did not always have growing up.

Antonella believes that Sam has achieved the American Dream and that he truly wants others to be able to achieve it as well. She continued on to say that Sam comes from a communist country and that he saw, first-hand what suppression of rights can do to an entire nation, and that this was the main reason he founded the Westchester Guardian newspaper. “He told me he wanted to do his part in ensuring the government in power is forthcoming and honest” she concluded.

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Jan Koum

“Jan Koum, born on February 24, 1976 and is an internet inventor and computer programer.”

By: Melissa Williams

The application WhatsApp, gives people the ability to call and text their friends and family members free of charge. Although the app is mostly popular in Europe, South America, and Africa, the amount of people who use the free cell phone messaging app worldwide surpasses one billion. Due to the great success of the mobile app, it has also brought great success to CEO and co-founder Jan Koum.

Koum was born in Ukraine, and immigrated to the United States when he was 16 years old. Koum and his mother immigrated in hopes of a better life and future. They moved to California, where they were able to qualify for food stamps, and obtain help in getting an apartment. Koum’s mother babysat, while Koum worked as a janitor in order to be able to help out.

Like many of the different American mogul’s we’ve talked about in previous blog posts, Koum was able to attend college and worked throughout his time there, but eventually ended up dropping out. Koum self taught himself programming and ended up securing a job at Yahoo, but eventually quit and decided to travel the world. Once Apple launched their app store in 2009, Koum saw this as a great opportunity and began to build what was later to become WhatsApp. In 2014, Koum and con-founder Brian Acton, who was also a former employee at Yahoo, decided to sell WhatsApp to Facebook for $19 billion. Today Koum is worth about $9.3 billion. In 2014, Koum was able to donate $555 million of Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

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