Sertoma International Blue Water South Georgia District Governor Lucy Stolfi presents the organization’s district level Service to Mankind Award to Phillip Hajek for the work he does for area charities through his Fifth Friday Foundation. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — When Albany orthopedist Phillip Hajek made the decision a few years ago to “stop chasing money” and start giving to his community, he realized the rewards were much greater than financial success.
That philanthropic spirit is what inspired Hajek to create the Fifth Friday Foundation, which helps to provide needed funds to a variety of Albany-area non-profit and charitable groups, as the charitable arm of his practice Musculoskeletal Associates (MSA).
Hajek and Fifth Friday were recently recognized for the impact they have made when the Albany Sertoma Club and the Blue Water South Georgia District presented Hajek with the organization’s Service to Mankind Award.
While receiving the district level award at the Albany Sertoma Club’s regular meeting Thursday, Hajek shared how the organization got started and a little about his vision of how Fifth Friday Foundation can make a difference.
“It all kind of started was back in 2001 when I’d been here for about 10 years practicing orthopedics and made some poor business decisions,” said Hajek. “I saw my income drop about 75 percent in the course of four years. The harder I’d chase money the worse it was getting. So I just quit. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew the way I was going was not the right way.”
Hajek went on to share that not long after making the decision to quit, the avid animal lover was driving down Oakridge Drive in Albany and passed the Albany Humane Society. On a whim he decided to turn around and stop there and write them a check from his line of credit, something he joking said was likely not the smartest financial idea considering he had no income.
Surprisingly, a few days later Donna Strickland, executive director of the humane society, called and informed him that because the organization didn’t normally get checks out the blue they entered him in a raffle the Terrell County Humane Society was putting on and he was the winner of $2,000.
“At that moment I realized I was doing the wrong thing,” Hajek said. “The more you give the more you receive. And so from that point in 2001 I tried to give as much as can and it has been returned 100 fold.”
It wasn’t long after that realization that Hajek started MSA and founded the Fifth Friday Foundation, both of which adhere to his philosophy about giving and taking care of people.
“I realized as I drove my income down I was chasing money; I was doing the wrong thing,” he said. “So, I started my new practice and realized if you take care of people and provide great customer service, if you really go in there every day and give people an honest orthopedic opinion and don’t try to make money, the money will follow. We’ve been blessed with that coming back.”
Since its inception, the foundation has donated roughly $475,000 to 70 different charities in the Albany area, including raising $200,000 for a construction project to help the Lee County Humane Society.
The organization regularly supports the YMCA, Shoes that Fit, Special Olympics, Graceway Recovery Center, Megan’s House (Easter Seals) the Albany ARC and the Dougherty County High School High Tech program and many others.
Along the way Hajek has also tried to encourage other businesses and business owners to join the foundation and donate a portion of their profits to organizations they want to support.
“We kind of envision an entire community,” Hajek said. “In the Albany community if people would just donate 10 percent of their profits every fifth Friday to whatever causes, or 50 percent or 100 percent, and the charities knew it was coming, they wouldn’t have to worry about their needs.”
He said he envisions a community where not only do businesses donate but citizens make it a point to do their shopping and spending on those days when profits will go to charities.
“I guess I saw them like tax free holidays where everybody goes out and spends a bunch of money,” said Hajek. “If you had a community that was committed to the fifth Friday and they (might) go out spend their money because they knew a part of the proceeds would be going to charitable causes.”
Despite what the rest of the community ends up doing, Hajek said he and his staff at Musculoskeletal Associates (MSA) is committed to continuing the Fifth Friday work and already has new plans on the horizons for helping different organizations.
Hajek said the foundation is currently looking at ways to help the The Anchorage in Lee County. He said he felt that the work the organization does to help alcoholic and drug-addicted men find recovery warranted help. The current plan is for the Fifth Friday Foundation to find a way to provide meals for the 50 plus residents there for an entire year.
In addition to running the Fifth Friday Foundation, Hajek and his colleagues at MSA also operate a medical truck used to conduct health screenings for agricultural workers. Hajek, who also owns a small farm, said he came up with the idea after a friend of his had a heart attack not long after helping him with some farm work.
That event got the doctor thinking about the difficulty farm workers encounter trying to get from rural areas to doctor’s offices for routine things. After finding the proper vehicle, MSA began scheduling screenings with area farmers and their workers.
Arranged by appointment, at no cost, the MSA van will visit workers on site and conduct screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, prostate cancer and kidney and liver function. The staff will also offer information on healthy living, such as proper diet and exercise.
Between the work of the Fifth Friday Foundation, the MSA Ag Health Initiative and running the actual medical practice, Hajek and Sertoma representatives said presenting Hayek with the Service to Mankind Award just made sense.
“He has wonderful charitable doings,” said Sertoma member Van Knowles of Hajek. “He is very deserving.”
Now that Hajek has earned both the local club and the district level awards he is in the running at the state level for the national Service to Mankind Award.
“This will be submitted regionally and has a chance at the national level,” said Blue Water South Georgia District Governor Lucy Stolfi. “We’re proud of him and we’re hoping he is able to earn that award too.”
Anyone interested in learning more about MSA, the Fifth Friday Foundation or the MSA Ag Health Initiative can do so by visiting www.msa4life.com. Anyone interested in scheduling health screenings can contact MSA at (229) 317-5571.