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Of Baseball, Faith, and Legacy: Jerry Zamzow

By Kelli Walker

Jerry Zamzow has been a Houston Astros season ticket holder since 1986. Not long after that, he met his mentor, friend, and fellow Opportunity supporter Dick Hoefs at St. Martins Lutheran Church in Houston. As any diehard baseball knows, faith and baseball--not to mention patience and humility--are inextricably linked.

Mr. Hoefs, former Opportunity board chair and longtime donor prior to his passing, introduced Jerry to Opportunity’s work to end extreme poverty. Jerry exemplifies what it means to support our mission in a multitude of ways. He has given selflessly of his time--introducing Opportunity to Houston area supporters; talents--as a retired chief financial officer he believes in and promotes Opportunity’s model of investing in people living in extreme poverty to create a path to sustainability and self-sufficiency; and treasure--his philanthropic investments have enabled thousands of people to thrive.

But he hasn’t stopped there. Jerry is faithful in his support of people living in poverty. In memory of Mr. Hoefs, he made a generous multi-year commitment and bequest through Opportunity’s Whittaker Legacy Society. The Society is a community of people following the example of Opportunity’s founders, Al and Marion Whittaker, by naming Opportunity in their will or making a planned gift to Opportunity. Jerry deeply believes in the importance of “honoring legacy, for one’s family, church, and meaningful causes like poverty.”

Jerry has taken close to a dozen Insight Trips with Opportunity in Latin America, Jamaica, and Nicaragua. Jerry shared, “I really enjoyed hearing from the Trust Group members, about their businesses and how their children were being fed and going to school.”


Jose Emiliano Urbina, Yucca farmer in Nicaragua
Jose Emiliano Urbina, Yucca farmer in Nicaragua

One of the most memorable experiences was traveling with another Houston businessman. They visited some of our agriculture finance clients in Nicaragua. As Jerry recounts it, his colleague was fascinated by two experiences: seeing the piggery—which certainly looked much different than the Texas pig farms he knew—and seeing a local Opportunity director teach a training session on the Biblical leadership lessons of Moses to his regional directors who were going to teach that same topic to their staff the next day. They were inspired and moved by it—even though it was in Spanish.

Mike Brasel, retired Vice President of Philanthropy for Opportunity, noted, “Jerry is one of the humblest, most generous people I know. Getting to know him and work with him has been a real joy and honor.”

Former New York University President John Sexton authored a book, Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game:  “The similarities between baseball and religion abound. The ballpark as cathedral; saints and sinners; the curses and blessings. But…beyond that surface level, there’s a fundamental similarity between baseball and religion which goes to the capacity of baseball to cause human beings, in a context they don’t think of as religious, to break the plane of ordinary existence into the plane of extraordinary existence.”

Opportunity is grateful for people like Jerry Zamzow whose dedication to lifting up people as they build their own livelihoods is indeed extraordinary.

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