Not settled with just giving to charities, Mitch Goldstein knew there had to be a better way of helping those in need. This surgeon by day, philanthropist by night is now working to build a nonprofit that is 100 percent self-sufficient. And he’s not just stopping in Fargo, he has much larger ambitions.
Goldstein likes to drive. With one of his daughters in college in Chicago and another in Montana, he spends a lot of time in the car. During his travels, Goldstein, who is a surgeon at Sanford in Detroit Lakes, Minn., continuously came across benefit flyers at gas stations for people who had gotten sick, whose house had burned down or any variety of tragic stories. He gave what he could but kept thinking that there had to be a better way to help out.
“I’ve always wanted to give more and it just felt like it’s such a hard time for people. So a few years ago I came up with this idea to start a nonprofit just for that purpose: to help people who have come across unfortunate situations,” said Goldstein. “However, I like what I do. I love being a surgeon. Working at a nonprofit can be a full-time position, and I didn’t want to go and spend hours on end asking people for money. So I came up with this idea to create a self- sufficient mechanism where we could establish a cash flow into a nonprofit.”
That idea led to the creation of the JTG Foundation. Standing for Just to Give, Goldstein decided to look at what people do on a daily basis and create a business where the profit would go back to the nonprofit.
“The thing that I thought about was, ‘What do people do?’” he said. “I don’t just want to start a little store of some sort. I wanted to do something that people visit and do all the time. I came up with people go out to eat.”
In fact, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, for the first time ever last year, Americans spent more at bars and restaurants than buying groceries. Knowing this, Goldstein believes he has found a sustainable business model. Still in its early stages, Goldstein launched the nonprofit in the spring of 2015 and is currently working on the capital campaign right now with hopes to raise enough money to get the restaurant off the ground.
They have a ways to go, though. Thanks to a design from Wild | CRG in Fargo, they have a gorgeous concept for the restaurant already made, but it will take about $4.5-$5 million to get the building off the ground. The reason for the high price tag is because Goldstein wants to own everything involved with the restaurant so that all the money possible would go to the JTG Foundation and wouldn’t be spent on rent or mortgage.
The dream doesn’t just end with a restaurant in Fargo. He would love to franchise restaurants across the Midwest and the country that would be driving the JTG Foundation.
“Don’t laugh. That’s how dreams start. If you don’t have a dream, you can’t do anything with it,” Goldstein said. “I’m smiling because, at first, that wasn’t the idea but, as we got into it, that is the concept. The idea being that we put 100 percent of the profit into the nonprofit and 60 percent will be devoted to dispersing to families and individuals that need it, and 40 percent will be reinvested into another facility in a different location.”
As far as the people the JTG Foundation hopes to help, Goldstein said it’s not just people going through medical needs. The idea is that they will help anybody who is going through a tough situation. They currently have an application process that will eventually decide who receives money.
“It’s a pretty in-depth application process where we will pay the vendor. If you’re two months behind on mortgage, we’ll pay the mortgage company,” said Goldstein. “Up to now, I’ve given $100 or $200 here and there to people directly who have had unfortunate situations, but we’re trying to hold off on that because we’re trying to raise our money.”
And while he has a long way to go, it doesn’t matter, because Goldstein and the board members of the JTG Foundation believe in their dream.
WANT TO HELP OUT THE JTG FOUNDATION?
You can visit thejtgfoundation.org to read more about the nonprofit and find out about people they have helped. You can also donate directly from the website, although Goldstein encourages people to send checks directly to him as Gofundme, the site that their online donation site is through, takes a cut of the donation.