Sanford “Sandy” Jaffe

Lisa Mandel
Sandy Jaffe at the offices of Ready Readers, where Jaffe is a board member. Photo: Lisa Mandel

BY PATRICIA CORRIGAN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Sanford “Sandy” Jaffe is not the kind of supporter who whips out a check and smiles for the camera.

“Sandy is the kind who hands you a check in private and says just deposit it, don’t talk about it,” says Pat Simons, whose nonprofit organization benefited for years from Jaffe’s generosity. “Sandy is the kind who is behind many anonymous donations.”

Anonymous or not, Jaffe, a member of United Hebrew Congregation and a resident of Chesterfield, is being honored as unsung. He is a bit baffled by it.

“It’s an honor, but I am a little surprised because I haven’t done anything big,” Jaffe said. “I’ve been involved in some things, but I didn’t start a nonprofit or build a school. The biggest thing for me has been to build my company, set up the core values we’ve tried to follow and keep people happy so they will like coming to work every day.”

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That company is Booksource, a national book wholesaler Jaffe founded 40 years ago. He retired in mid-March, just after a trip to Florida to celebrate his 75th birthday. His sons Neil and Gary are co-presidents of the company, and his daughter Donna is president of Peaceable Kingdom Press, the retail products division. Through the decades, Booksource has won numerous awards and has been cited repeatedly as a great place to work.

“Sandy took over a small, failing book wholesaler in 1974 and turned it into a thriving, family-owned, multiple-award-winning company with 200 employees and revenue close to $50 million,” said Simons, who was named an Unsung Hero in 2012 and nominated Jaffe. “Today, what makes Sandy happiest is not Booksource’s success, but the fact that he has helped create a workplace that lives by the same principles he does.

“Because of Sandy’s belief in the Golden Rule, his is a company that offers educational allowances, bonuses for bringing in good employees, transportation assistance and many unusually generous benefits. New parents may bring infants to work, and the company supplements day care costs. Booksource offers free on-site massages and supplements gym memberships. It also has an employee-run Golden Rule committee that encourages charitable undertakings and raises money for charity.”

Every year since 2007, the Golden Rule Committee has donated school supplies, volunteer time and money to various charities, including Sunshine Ministries, St. Patrick’s Center, Haven House, Friends of Kids with Cancer, Angel Arms, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Ranken Jordan Pediatric Hospital, the Nassau Reading Council, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 100 Neediest Cases, the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk, and various clothing, toy and ctanned food drives.

Simons met Jaffe in 1999 when she and three friends founded Ready Readers, a nonprofit literacy program.

“We had started a program to excite low-income preschoolers about books, but we had no money and no board,” Simons said.

Jaffe’s company underwrote the production and marketing of a children’s book to aid the struggling organization, and then for a decade he served on the board, donated personal funds, negotiated discounts for books for children, donated books and even introduced Simons to publishers in New York.

“Sandy Jaffe is a prince, a good and generous man with a big heart,” she said.

Stacy Tew-Lovasz, president of the Alzheimer’s Association of St. Louis, agrees. In March, the organization presented Jaffe with the Alzheimer’s Lifetime Giving Award.

“Sandy started as a volunteer, talking with families in our respite program, and has gone on to be a vital member of our board of directors since 2004,” Tew-Lovasz said. “His dedication to the Alzheimer’s Association has been instrumental in our chapter’s growth and success, and we are so thankful to have Sandy as our hero.”

Jaffe started working with the Alzheimer’s Association after his wife, Marcia Rubin Jaffe, was diagnosed with the disease in 2000. She died in 2011. Jaffe funds the Marcia Jaffe Library at the Alzheimer’s Center office and established the Marcia Jaffe Adult Day Care Center at the Jewish Community Center. Jaffe donated a reading area for children and parents at the Magic House in Kirkwood and he has served on the board of Talking Tapes, which provides audio textbooks for the blind.

Books and literacy have always been important to Jaffe.

“I’ve been a reader my whole life. I read maybe a book a week,” he said. “That’s the way I relax.”

Born and reared in St. Louis, Jaffe majored in journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. He served in the Army and was stationed at Fort Lee, Va. After he left the service, Jaffe worked in advertising for a few years before starting Booksource.

How is he spending his retirement? Jaffe goes into the office for an hour or two now and then, he said. He volunteers with the Gateway Venture Mentoring Service, helping people in small businesses. He serves as an adviser for the YMCA Literacy program and works with  inspireSTL, founded by four young Teach for America corps members to help middle school students from the inner city get into college-prep high schools.

“In spring and summer, I play golf, and I work out three or four times a week,” Jaffe said. “And I am a little politically active, in Missouri and nationally.”

He also spends time with his girlfriend, Diane Blackwell. They especially enjoy going to movies and Cardinals games. Jaffe and Blackwell each have five grandchildren.

“I can’t think of anything else to brag about,” Jaffe said. “Wait – I am writing a memoir. I am doing this for my kids and my grandchildren. I call it ‘What’s the Worst That Can Happen?’ As I’ve gone through my life, that’s always been my philosophy when making decisions. I have always said, ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen. If your answer is unacceptable, don’t do it. But if you can live with it, then do it.”


Sanford “Sandy” Jaffe

Age: 75

Residence: Chesterfield

Quote: “I am writing a memoir … ‘What’s the Worst That Can Happen?’ As I’ve gone through my life, that’s always been my philosophy when making decisions.”