2016 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll
Washington High School, 1979
Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: White Church Elementary and Eisenhower Middle
Some people work so that they can relax and have fun. Others work in order to have nice things. For Steve Bender, work provides him the means to help others. “Philanthropy is my golf,” Bender says.
Steve is the CEO and founder of Newport Homes Real Estate, but knowing how he makes a living tells you very little about the many, many lives he has changed for the better.
Bender graduated from Washington High School in 1979. He credits growing up in the Midwest with teaching him the values of hard work and humility. Though he has travelled the world, and lives in California, he comes back home to Kansas City to recharge his sense of self.
Bender has figured out how to make a living, and change lives, focusing on the things for which he has passion. He used his entrepreneurial drive to start one of the first microbreweries, and later created and trademarked a merlot wine to commemorate the Millennium. From there, he organized friends with a passion for wine to form the Bacchus Society, which promotes the enjoyment of food, wine, entertainment and travel to raise money to fund service projects across the world.
One of the most impactful of these projects is the Bacchus Doc in a Box program, which uses high school students to turn shipping containers into full-service medical clinics, which are then donated (along with supplies, staff and support) to communities in Southern Africa suffering from AIDS.
Never one to shy away from a physical challenge, Bender braved the dangerous currents and chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay to swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco, in order to raise money for the Society.
Additional projects Bender is involved with include a project to provide surgery to children with cleft palates, and one to make sailing accessible to individuals with disabilities. He serves as president of the Newport Beach Sunrise Rotary Club, and under his leadership, the club lives out the Rotary motto of “Service before Self.”
Steve’s advice for young people is to get involved in giving to others. “The happiest people I know aren’t the ones who own jets. They are those who work side-by-side with me on service projects.”