A Sense of Obligation

Glenn-PahnkeFrom night to night, young Glenn Pahnke wasn’t sure who, exactly, would be sleeping on the floor of his family’s modest Wisconsin home, or who would be sitting at the dinner table. Pahnke’s father, a Lutheran clergyman, ran a youth ministry for runaway boys and, well, runaways need a place to sleep and something to eat, after all.

They didn’t have much, the Pahnkes, but what was theirs they shared. Mom was a Lutheran schoolteacher whose demeanor and physical attributes were akin to SNL’s “Church Lady,” Glenn Pahnke recalls, laughing. Fitting, since church and faith were imbedded into their life’s fabric, and with it, tithing. But what they couldn’t always contribute with a check, the Pahnkes gave in time and attention. Dad, for example, never once passed a broken-down car on the side of the road without stopping.

“We changed a lot of tires,” Pahnke says.

When one runaway boy kept returning, in between car thefts and misdemeanors, the Pahnkes adopted him. Terry was 10 years old. Young Glenn was learning by example, observing the way in which his parents lived their lives, the manner by which his family had formed. And it’s there we must start this story about one man’s sense of obligation.

Fast forward to 1986. Glenn Pahnke has moved from the Midwest to Arizona, and is working at Norwest Bank. The mid-80s, however, Pahnke admits in retrospect, wasn’t exactly the greatest time in American history to be a young banker. The commercial banking crisis hit hard, and suddenly Pahnke was not a banker but a repo man. As he tells us this, we feel like he could pull it off—as warm and gregarious as he is, we also wouldn’t want to mess with him. But Pahnke was mentored since birth to give back, not take away, so he left the repossession biz and ventured into brokerage.

A financial whizz, Pahnke quickly advanced in his field. Before long he found himself having an audience with a potential client named Bill Peltier, who became not only a client but a friend, too. Peltier introduced Pahnke to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix by inviting him as a guest to Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars. What makes Stars unique is that the kids BGCMP impacts are up there on the stage, telling their stories about how the Clubs changed their lives. Pahnke listened intently, and was brought back to all the nights of lost, troubled kids sleeping on the floor. He thought about Terry. He knew he was in the right place.

Pahnke approached his new commitment in a nontraditional way. The way he figured it, you can only really help one child at a time, and the volume of kids within BGCMP was daunting. But what Pahnke could offer was leverage. He had the time, skills, resources and energy to make a difference that could empower an army of do-gooders to go forth and help that one kid. He could leverage his talent to make a difference. After all, tithing isn’t all about money, he once learned.

He did this through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix Foundation. The parameters of planned giving can be complex, but Pahnke’s skills in wealth management could simplify the process, make it more transparent and effective. With good investments and great volunteers, Pahnke could help transform the Foundation from something good to something great and, in the process, secure BGCMP’s stability for future generations. And that’s exactly what he did, and what he continues to do.

It all started with family, and Pahnke now has a large one of his own. Parents to six children, Pahnke and his wife have five boys of their own, and two years ago they adopted a 7-year-old little girl. The Pahnkes lead by example, even if they have to force the issue sometimes. By far, their favorite annual event is BGCMP’s Back to School Shopping, and they make it a point, each and every year, to bring their own kids.

“I want my spoiled rotten kids,” Pahnke says, jokingly, “to see these kids, who don’t have much at all, jumping up and down about a pair of sneakers.”

The Pahnke kids watch and learn as Mom and Dad not just buy much-needed school items for a boy and girl, but talk to them, learn about their lives, and try their best to mentor them, if even for a little while. No doubt it’s providing perspective and a sense of obligation for a future generation.

As one might expect, Pahnke is forever looking out for his family and was, in fact, on his way to a grand trip with his boys when we spoke. It’s an oft-cited reason, “making sure my family is set first,” Pahnke hears from peers in his relatively young age bracket as they put off, for now, the idea of planned giving. And here’s where his leverage came in quite handy. While many equate planned giving with words like “will” and “bequeathment,” Pahnke facilitated various ways by which one might leave a lasting legacy of philanthropy without adversely affecting what one might want to leave to family. One such means is through donating a portion of an IRA or retirement trust to the Foundation. It just so happens, leading by example once again, that’s exactly the way in which Pahnke himself has chosen to contribute to the very organization he’s contributed so much to already. (Tithing is not all about money, we know, but it’s worth mentioning that Pahnke has donated more than half a million dollars to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix since he first attended Stars.) His family is set, yes … and so too is his BGCMP family.

It all got us thinking … about time, influence, family, and legacy. What are the chances one of the Pahnke boys might be sitting down many years from now, chair of BGCMP’s flourishing Foundation, reminiscing about his own upbringing and his father’s influence?

“We changed a lot of lives,” he might say.