Manfred Franke established C4C in 1996. How did it all come about? What was his motivation and what are his feelings today?
Author: Martina Vaculíková and Manfred Franke
I´m sure you´ve been asked this question before, but what were the circumstances that led you to establish Chance 4 Children back in 1996?
Well, I´m not even sure that I made the conscious decision to “establish” C4C way back in 1996. Things just happened and one thing led to another. Pursuing business interests, being involved in the music production industry, I had moved my family to the Czech Republic in 1995. No small move with a wife and five children.
After a year or so, my kids began expressing a desire to reach out to the community in a meaningful way. They felt somewhat isolated and bored. For starters, we decided to visit a nearby orphanage to see what could be done. We brought small Christmas presents, the kids (who learned to perform a few songs) sang Christmas songs and we all left with the warm and fuzzy feeling of having contributed to the happiness of others in a small way.
After a few repeat performances, the management of the children´s home (Detsky Domov) presented us with a list of needs that their limited budget didn´t cover. I happened to have contacts to some German discount retailers and soon after found myself driving to nearby Dresden, to a distribution center of one of the leading German discounters.
I brought home a small trailer full of rejected and mislabeled goods that fit the general description of what the orphanage needed: household items and kids clothing and shoes.
Several small trailer loads turned into small truckloads, than bigger truckloads. One orphanage turned into two, than three, than more.
C4C´s Robin Hood program had found its inception! 1999 and 2001, respectively, marked the launch of our Dr. Klaun program and the Springboard to Life educational initiative, as we endeavored to further reach out to the needs of children at risk and those socially marginalized.
It remains to be said that today´s C4C is very different from when we started. In 2010 we created the C4C Endowment Fund as our fundraising arm and under the leadership of my dear wife, Marketa, it has become a pillar of support in our overall structure.
The rest is history!
Where are you originally from and what is your background?
Actually, as time goes by that becomes more and more fuzzy! Ha! I´m kidding of course (to a degree), but I left my home country of Germany, just 19 years of age, in search for challenges and opportunities in warmer climes. Having had only limited success in my chosen profession, photography, I found myself making a living teaching languages in Portugal and the Netherlands and getting my feet wet in minor management positions.
In 1973 I immigrated to the United States where I lived for almost a decade and where I got involved in the health food industry (long story…) and established the first bio whole grain bakery in Houston Texas. After successfully divesting of it, I invested into the rising phenomena of the budding computer industry.
Between 1982 and 1995 I traveled as an entrepreneur with my family and we lived on several different continents in a variety of countries, amongst them Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand and Switzerland. My five children were born in five different countries. 😉
Tell us what you´re passionate about
Coming of age in the sixties, I must admit that I partook of the idealism of the youth during that period. During my stay in the Netherlands, searching for alternative and healthier ways to live, I became an adherent of the Macrobiotic movement, studied yoga and decided to invest my energies in endeavors which, at least in a small way, would help make the world a better and more sustainable place. I learned to bake bread and took on several management positions in the health food industry – which ultimately lead to the founding of my bakery in Houston, Texas.
Do you have any hobbies?
Considering my ripe old age of 73, I went through a variety of hobbies and passions – starting with photography in the sixties, becoming a pilot and a diver in the seventies, discovering a fascination for boats, camper vans and motorhomes in the eighties (that one stuck with me until now) to being at present an avid drone pilot and layman cinematographer (mainly of our vacation and travel experiences). Well, add to that the building of Lithium batteries as of late, mainly for recreational purposes and my contribution to greener energy.
Do you practice sports?
Considering diving more of a lazy man´s sport, I started jogging in the nineties, mainly because it is a sport that can be practiced just about anywhere in the world. Just give me a trail or a road… Later, I added bicycle riding for balance, as my knees and Achilles succumbed somewhat to getting older. I still go jogging 3-4 times a week and ride my bike, in hopes that by staying fit I can buy myself a little more time in life´s casino…
Any final word, thought…?
Whenever I feel a little discouraged about the enormity of demands made on us and the small role we all play in the big scheme of things, I´m reminded of a saying by the one and only Mother Teresa:
“I often feel that our help and assistance is only one drop in a vast ocean. But then I take comfort in the thought that this incredible ocean would not be the same without that little drop of ours…”