By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoman
Last week I wrote about Mohammad and Jalal Farzaneh, businessmen who immigrated to Oklahoma as students and stayed here through boom and bust to build a construction business that earns a hundred million dollars in annual revenue, creates jobs for hundreds of Oklahoma workers, and builds terrific new homes for Oklahoma families.
The business success of Home Creations, Oklahoma’s largest new homebuilder, is just one part of the Farzanehs’ story. The second part is the long-held Farzaneh tradition of giving back, a deep belief that is particularly fitting for Thanksgiving week.
“When I was a first-grader in Iran, there were already four of us children, and my mom wanted one of us to go with my dad when we were out of school because she didn’t want to manage four boys in the house,” Mohammad Farzaneh, the oldest of six brothers, told me with a smile.
Every summer, Mohammad shadowed his father, following him through his construction sites, his office and his social work.
“My dad was very involved in the community,” Mohammad said, “helping the needy and serving on different boards, helping orphan children, older ladies, and people in hospitals. My dad was always involved. I grew up just learning what he was doing. Always it was part of our duty to help the community constantly.”
Their father devised a coupon system.
“He would figure out how much coal he could give this person and how much rice for that person and how much vegetable shortening for someone else,” Jalal said. “However much he was or wasn’t making, he was always giving back to society and to needy people.”
Along with their deep commitment to education (the extended family holds more than 30 degrees from the University of Oklahoma alone), Mohammad and Jalal live their father’s example of giving back.
Mohammad, who is on the board of the International Society of Children with Cancer, an international organization that works with St. Jude Children’s Research to treat children with cancer around the world, says their goal is to contribute to the most vital things — food, healthcare and education.
“It doesn’t matter where you sit, what you are doing, or how much money you have, that’s how we were brought up,” Mohammad said.
From the invitation to participate in Toys for Tots on the Home Creations homepage, to helping fill backpacks in the Norman Backpack program with nutritious food for children to take home for the weekend, to endowing multiple professorships and programs at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, the Farzanehs give back to Oklahoma’s people, communities, and universities.
If ever there was a Thanksgiving parable, this story of an uprooted family who immigrated from the Middle East to the U.S., decades ago, settling in Oklahoma on the advice of an Iranian friend who liked this state and its people so much that he knew his countrymen could be happy and successful here, this is that parable.
Let us all be thankful for what we have here in Oklahoma — a state full of great and hospitable people who may be different in our beginnings but share a sense of community, camaraderie, and generosity of spirit.
May we all have the grace to give thanks and the will to give back with our time, our resources, and our hearts.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at [email protected].
Did you know?
One in four children in Oklahoma lives in households that are struggling to put food on the table. The Backpack program delivers kid-friendly, pre-assembled food sacks and backpacks to participating schools across Oklahoma at no cost to the school or child, last year serving 19,051 chronically hungry elementary school students attending 481 schools. Donations can be made at www.regionalfoodbank.org/programs/backpack-programs.