Bob Hart Pays Tribute to Chelsea in His Award Acceptance Speech

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles honored the life and philanthropic legacy of Chelsea native Robert “Bob” Hart at the Real Estate and Construction Network Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. 

Hart grew up on Bellingham Street and attended the Shurtleff School and Chelsea High School, where he was an excellent student. He went to earn his undergraduate degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute  and his MBA from the Anderson School of Management at the University of California (UCLA). Hart  is the founder, chief executive officer, and president of TruAmerica Multifamily. 

According to The Real Deal Real Estate News, the REC Dinner is the premier gathering of real estate professionals in Los Angeles. The event focused on the power of philanthropy to uplift those in need in the Los Angeles community. 

“Mr. Hart’s selfless contributions were integral to making the REC Dinner such a tremendous success,” wrote the Real Estate News in its coverage of the dinner. “The record-shattering sum (more than $3.3 million) those in attendance donated was a testament to Mr. Hart’s long-reaching charitable influence.”

After receiving a standing ovation from the guests in attendance in appreciation of his many philanthropic endeavors, Hart delivered a humble and heartfelt award acceptance speech. 

“I am truly honored to be standing before you as your 2023 dinner honoree,” began Hart.

“First and foremost, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Cynthia, my beautiful wife, who has inspired me for 35 years —-and to my brilliant daughter, Mia, who will be moving east in the fall to attend Boston College and who has brought so much happiness to our lives —together they motivate and support me at every turn, never without hesitation. Thank you both. I love you very much.”

Hart then spoke of his upbringing in Chelsea, where he learned about the importance of community service and philanthropy.

“Now — I want to tell you a little bit about my personal journey and what seeded my roots in Jewish life, philanthropy, and business,” said Hart. “Trust me, it didn’t begin from this stage here at the Hilton. … My Jewish life began 65 years ago in the hard scrabble city of Chelsea, Massachusetts. Despite its gritty image — Chelsea’s spirit remained unbroken. 

“Despite the challenges and tougher living conditions — there was a thriving Jewish community there with many congregations. The center of Jewish life was the local YMHA — where we played basketball and tag football and went on field trips to the Boston Garden to see the Celtics play (who more often than not — beat the Lakers!). The “Y” opened a larger world outside of Chelsea to me. 

“We learned about the importance of community service and philanthropy. When I was 14, I joined the B’nai B’rith youth organization called AZA — I think it was my first real experience navigating the politics of organizational governance, which seeded my negotiating skills. I was elected president in my junior year and learned how to reconcile differences of opinion, developed a social outlet, and first learned about the importance of charitable giving. … A few of us went to local shopping malls on Saturdays to collect coins for kiddie camp. I learned how to ask people for donations and to backpedal with them as they nearly wheeled their large shopping carts over me rushing out of Stop & Shop. They would attempt to detour, but I never gave up. They couldn’t escape my earnest pitch — “giving only hurts for a minute!” … They would smile and try to get out of reach from my outstretched arm while I was pleading for just a small donation to help less privileged kids go to kiddie camp. Now, I have changed my fundraising tactics — I just use the phone, internet, and text messaging — it’s a lot safer — and I don’t have to ask for donations while dodging shopping carts filled with groceries.

“So, it was through those early formative years that I became imbued with the mindset that working hard and doing well in school was just not enough to succeed and feel satisfied in life — you had to find a way to give back. … Today, that philosophy is embodied in a credo we have adopted at TruAmerica and BCE. It goes like this — “you can do good — while you’re doing well.” … We make corporate philanthropy a mission, it’s part of our DNA and our culture to be charitable whether it’s for the Federation, the City of Hope, Chrysalis, numerous universities, supporting the families of U.S. and Israeli Navy Seals — your generosity makes it possible. You make it all possible. I may be the honoree here tonight, but all of you are the real honorees. You made tonight important — you showed up in droves with your time and treasure — thank you.” 

Hart also recalled his humble beginnings in Chelsea, where the hard-working and proud son of Alfred and Sylvia Hart operated an ice cream truck to help pay for his college education. 

“Part of my simple message to you here tonight is — success in life does not occur overnight,” said Hart. “It begins with taking small baby steps and continues with the life experiences and relationships we cultivate that build up on each other. … My first job wasn’t as CEO of the 25th largest multifamily owner in the nation — it was driving a leased ice cream truck through Boston’s inner city housing projects in the dog days of summer to earn money to help pay for my education. …It was the intensity of this hard work and long days that seeded my strong work ethic that guides my path today. This is why we need to appreciate the journey — so when we land at a good place, where we can do something bigger than ourselves for a group like the Federation, it is so rewarding. Take time to remember where you came from — to appreciate the journey. In my case, it began in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the son of a postal worker and a housewife growing up in a tidy tenement set on a hill overlooking Logan Airport, and the Mystic River Bridge in the distance. … It was from that perch, not this one, where I dreamed what it might be like to elevate myself out of Chelsea without ever forgetting my humble roots and all the kind people there who gave me their friendship, shared their wisdom, and offered kindness when I needed it most. 

“In closing, I want to express my deepest gratitude to my colleagues at TruAmerica and BCE who work very hard and never say “no” to my constant requests for raising money. 

— To my cousins who traveled here today from Noston — the Pilavins and the Mitchells — who are always there for my family.

—  To the entire Jewish Federation’s Real estate and construction network. 

— And of course, to Cynthia and Mia — 

I can’t thank all of you enough for your support. Thanks to each and every one of you for all you do and your dedication to the Jewish community. … Your generosity and commitment to this cause and to tonight’s dinner have made a tremendous positive impact on the lives of Jews around the world. Thank you again for this wonderful honor, and for all that you do.”

(Information and excerpts from The Real Deal Real Estate News were used in the compilation of this story).

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