My Generous Friend Donald Trump

Julia Duresky/CAPEHART
Julia Duresky/CAPEHART

I was 28 in 1982 when I entered Harry Winston’s on Fifth Avenue and Mr. Winston commented, “Did you see Trump’s incredible high-rise going up across the street?” It was my first look at one of Manhattan’s most famous buildings, the 68-story Trump Tower, and my first impression of Trump, who at only 35 was completing something so remarkable. This visionary, who has great courage and love for New York, was effectively turning our nation’s largest city around from its great decline in the mid-1970s to developing many huge projects, investing billions and employing thousands of people worldwide.

During this same time, I was helping to transform our family’s 2.5-million-square-foot facility in Cleveland to become an International Exposition Center (I-X Center). The I-X Center provides a spectacular venue for hundreds of shows and events, including the largest annual indoor amusement park. It is amazing to think that our I-X Center would be used 34 years later for a Trump presidential rally.

In 1998, I arrived in Palm Beach and was introduced to the spectacular Mar-a-Lago Club. Trump had purchased the famous Marjorie Merriweather Post estate and spent tens of millions to bring it back to its glory days and create an incomparable club. His vision for Mar-a-Lago included hosting charitable events, where one could experience the hospitality and elegance of this world-famous club. He then built an exquisite European-style ballroom to accommodate these events. After seeing his vision for Mar-a-Lago, I immediately decided to do whatever I could to bring charitable events, special shows, and concerts to this grand, one-of-a-kind ballroom—similar to what I had done in Cleveland at our I-X Center.

Event-driven charities in Palm Beach have been a way of life for me and it has not come without the kindness and generosity of Donald Trump. For the past 18 years, I have hosted and chaired over 200 events at Mar-a-Lago. Mr. Trump has truly made a difference for organizations such as American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Arts and Letters, Cleveland Clinic, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Food for the Poor, International Society of Palm Beach, It Happened to Alexa Foundation, Junior Achievement, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, LIFE, March of Dimes, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Palm Beach Symphony, and many others. He and his wife, Melania, personally attend many of these events and, many times, I would witness Mr. Trump raising his hand in generosity during a charity’s “call for donations.” Often, when he could not be present, I would find generous donation checks in my mailbox. (Others have had the same experience.)

I have seen extraordinary things happen at Mar-a-Lago in the name of charity and Trump is a champion to many non-profits, big and small. People come here from around the world to support a cause and experience charitable giving at its finest. From the full-service event team and impeccable hospitality suites to the most refined and delectable cuisine and unmatched superior waitstaff, everything at Mar-a-Lago is world-class. Bernd Lembcke, the club’s managing director and executive vice president, ensures that every event’s detail is meticulously executed. 

Yet another magnificent space envisioned by Trump, the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom in Miami serves as Trump National
Doral’s largest function space. (It is noted to be among the most elegant and versatile meeting and event spaces in the United States.) There, Trump also extends his generosity for charity functions. Upon his completion of Doral’s $300-million renovation, he invited the Miami Symphony Orchestra and piano virtuoso Lola Astanova as guest artist to inaugurate the resort’s new ballroom. Indeed, Trump is effectively utilizing his developments as tools to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for charity.

Mr. Trump’s children are also incredibly generous. I recently attended an event for the Eric Trump Foundation and it was easy to conclude that a father’s character has tremendous influence on his children. On this night, funds were being raised for a $30-million research wing for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Eric displayed the same kindness and considerate respect that I have come to know from his father. He made a point to personally thank each donor that evening, no matter the size of their gift.

For two decades, I have witnessed the charitable side of Donald Trump. This man exemplifies everything you would want in a person, friend, leader, and president of our great country. He is the George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. If he had never been born, the world would not be the same. He has left an imprint from east coast to west coast, having a positive influence on our communities. For these reasons and many more, Trump has my vote.