Roger Presgrove, who died Sunday at the age of 56, is touted by those who knew him best as a man of great generosity. In addition to the abundant stories where the businessman-turned-charity administrator showed great compassion to those in need, Presgrove’s Christian spirit propelled the non-profit organization Help the Children into some distinctive categories, including Forbes Magazine’s “Best Run Charities” list.
Formerly Children’s Network International, a non-profit founded by Presgrove, Help the Children applies a whopping 99 percent of donated monies directly to programs. Objective watchdog groups have underscored the efficiency of Help the Children, placing the organization in such categories as the top 100 charities in America, according to Independent Charities of America. Charity Navigator, another independent rating site, gives Help the Children a score of 100% in “transparency and accountability.”
“Help the Children is the most efficient food philanthropic organization, probably in the country,” said Ed Bernstein of 25Score. “Roger, to a tee, was so frugal – he wanted it all to go to philanthropy. He was so selfless and so quiet.”
Despite the fact that Presgrove’s ministry built and operates a hospital in Guatemala, conducts medical and dental outreaches, military assistance programs, disaster relief, supports a girls’ school and orphanage in Kenya, and helps provide residential accommodations in Honduras for children undergoing cancer treatment, the community leader began with the basics.
“There’s a story that illustrates what he was like, which happened one day at the food pantry operated by Help the Children,” said Michael Santomauro, director of the Santa Clarita facility of Help the Children. “One of the clients showed up to get food and had symptoms of not just homelessness, but addiction as well…Roger got there, after a full day of work, and he sat outside, held her hand, talked to her…and then said, ‘Give her whatever she needs.’”
Presgrove’s actions were widely known in the Christian community. Said Pastor Jim Ryan of Heart of the Canyons Church, “I have known a lot of people who are in the business of caring for those who are hurting, but what impressed me most about Roger Presgrove was that he had a compassion for the hurting that moved him to action, not a sympathy that produced temporary reaction.”
The other irony, when you picture the man at the top of an organization that has shipped more than $900 million in aid to people in 12 states and 52 countries, was that he chose to step away from disaster relief that had the attention of the media. He offered assistance to those out of the limelight, who lacked exposure.
“He was always sacrificing recognition,” explained Santomauro. “He didn’t want accolades.”
Though the simple provision of “God’s love and compassion through its programs” was enough for Presgrove, attention could not be completely diverted from an organization cutting as wide a berth as Help the Children. Its programs continue to provide food, clothing, personal hygiene items, over the counter medicines and medical outreaches to third world countries. Help the Children distributes food to hundreds of churches, senior citizen facilities, battered women shelters, recovery programs, and other service providers. These groups, in turn, hand out donated food to the needy people they serve.
Last year alone, using four food distribution sites, Help the Children distributed 1.7 million pounds of
bulk food each month and over 35 tons of food each workday.
“We’re dedicated to keeping Roger’s work going,” said Bernstein. “If you live in Santa Clarita, and if you’re blessed to have abundance, please get involved. If you live in Santa Clarita, and you feel you need a hand up, Help the Children is there to help you with groceries and sundries and clothing.”
Help the Children currently has several food distribution centers throughout Southern California and across the country, and will continue to operate, as it did when Presgrove was alive.
“Our goal in the short term is to continue the momentum,” said Santomauro, “to develop a team who can take it to the next level.”
Presgrove’s funeral service is scheduled for 10 am Saturday, November 16 at Real Life Church. In lieu of flowers they are requesting donations to Help the Children.