Here at the San Antonio Area Foundation, we like to say that anyone can be a philanthropist.

One need not be a generous millionaire to assume that role.

Look no further than 15-year-old Mariano Schwartz. Armed with his inherent altruistic personality further strengthened by a spirit of community service instilled in him by his parents, Mariano had already been working on raising donations for Ukrainian families impacted by the wrath of the Russian invasion.

Years earlier, he had raised $14,000 for the victims of Hurricane Maria in the island of Puerto Rico.

“Doing something, no matter how small, is always a thousand times better than doing nothing,” said the soft-spoken teenager during a recent phone interview from his New York home. “We can all work on not being selfish, not thinking of ourselves first.”

When he learned about the horrific school shooting in Uvalde earlier this year, he immediately knew he had to do something. He decided to turn his fundraising efforts for Ukraine closer to home toward helping impacted Uvalde families.

A gifted piano player, Mariano had earned a steady weekend gig at a popular restaurant. Instead of keeping those hard-earned tips for himself – perhaps future pocket money for college – he began collecting them to do his part to help the Uvalde community heal.

“They needed it a lot more,” Mariano said.

The initial goal was to raise a couple of hundred dollars – he and his family would’ve been really happy with that. But the donation jar kept filling up weekend after weekend. Researching the most reputable conduit for their donations, they learned about the Uvalde Strong Survivors Fund, housed at and managed by the Area Foundation.

The result was no less than 11 donations Mariano made to the fund, totaling more than $3,000.

Mariano’s dad, Brian Schwartz, couldn’t have been any prouder of his fledgling teenage philanthropist son.

“We grew up poor and we know what it’s like to be on public assistance and live in tough neighborhoods with no resources,” Brian recalled of his own childhood. “So, we do all we can to give back to the community.”

It literally makes him cry to see his son display such altruistic values out of his own volition.

“The ironic thing is that he’s an introvert,” Brian noted. “He’s such a blessing. Makes me so proud. Good things happen to good people, and it starts with being a good person.”

With a lifetime ahead of him – he’s now a sophomore in high school – Mariano is not sure yet what career path he’ll pursue but realizing his talents, he’s thinking of giving music a try.

If that were to work out and even if he hit the big time, rest assured that it doesn’t seem likely that success will go to his head.

“It’s not about being famous but about seeing that you inspire others,” Mariano shared.

Simple yet powerful words to live by. Quite emblematic of our work here at the Area Foundation, where we strive to be our region’s most trusted and impactful philanthropic partner working to close opportunity gaps for our neediest neighbors.

The Area Foundation Uvalde Strong Survivors Fund closed recently after raising more than $1.7 million. There are still many causes and efforts you can support through our work – interested in learning more and perhaps getting involved? Check out our website and feel free to reach out to us to start a conversation.

Hernán Rozemberg is the Director of Communications and Storytelling in the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Marketing and Communications Department.