Marvin and Nadene Steinert are two of Bakersfield's biggest supporters who have dedicated their lives to giving locally and to many other communities. For this, the Steinerts -- who celebrated 70 years of marriage in September -- were recently awarded the "Spirit of Philanthropy" award by the Kern Community Foundation for their lifetime of charitable giving.
A former board member of the Kern Community Foundation, Marvin Steinert learned about charity from his father, who put away $2.50 out of his $25 per week paycheck to give to their church. His father never told him to give, he said. He just followed his father's example and has been giving to the church and his community ever since.
Marvin met his wife Nadene at a rodeo in 1940, and he offered to drive her home. Eighteen months later, they were married, and after an 11-day honeymoon, he was sent off to war.
After serving in the U.S. Air Corps at the tail end of the Battle of the Bulge, Marvin came home just in time to see his son born. They now have three sons, six granddaughters and 13 great grandchildren, all of whom they taught the importance of charity.
The Steinerts started with nothing, they said, but they had success in business and were able to give more generously.
"The Lord blessed us," they both said.
Marvin Steinert became an accountant for a local cattle farm and gradually got involved in real estate. Throughout many years, he built a successful business and has used that success to invest in the community.
He found a place on the board of the Kern Community Foundation in 1971 and uses the foundation as a conduit for his giving.
Foundation President and CEO Jeff Pickering calls it a "home for local philanthropists" that helps grow charity in Kern County. Individuals and businesses can set up a fund, and the foundation checks the viability of charities they are interested in and oversees the donation of funds. Many smaller charities can only take direct donations, but the Kern Community Foundation can work with large gifts -- like real estate and assets -- and helps connect people with charities of interest.
The Steinerts established the Marvin Steinert Family Charitable Fund to pool their donations and disburse them to the charities of their choice.
And those charities are numerous. Some of the Steinerts' favorites include Teen Challenge, Salvation Army, Youth For Christ, Women's and Girls' Fund, Star Theater, Bakersfield Rescue Mission and the Bakersfield Museum of Art, among others.
They have also thrown support to educational institutions including Bakersfield College, Cal State Bakersfield, Fresno Pacific University and Bakersfield Christian High School.
It is especially important to support youth, Nadene Steinert said.
"(We're) helping kids grow up -- helping them have a new or better life," she said.
Another important goal for the Steinerts is to support Christian programs. They funded seminars at the Haggai Institute in Atlanta, Ga, which trains third-world nationals to become ministers for their native countries with the ultimate goal to spread Christianity all over the world.
The Steinerts have been officially recognized in Fresno, where their charitable contributions have helped build an athletics center and a student commons at Fresno Pacific University. Their lifelong philanthropy has gotten them local, state and national recognition. In May, they gifted a piece of commercial real estate to the Kern Community Foundation that represented the largest single contribution so far by any individual or family to the foundation.
The foundation is still relatively young, but the Steinerts helped build the foundation to what it is today, Pickering said. The Steinerts look toward the future, and through their habits of giving, paved the way for others to follow, he said.
"(They) are pioneers in the community," he said. "They have taken the lead in support of causes that others eventually get behind."
The Steinerts do not care much for the renown that their philanthropy has brought them. They have always lived a life of modesty.
"It's not our doing," Nadene Steinert said. "We've been blessed."
They only hope their newfound fame gets more people involved in the foundation.
"We got our reward from the Lord already," Marvin Steinert said.
For people who are looking to get more involved in charity and the community, Marvin Steinert recommends using the Kern Community Foundation to organize giving. For more information, go to kernfoundation.org.