About James N. Jarvie


A Steward of God

James Newbegin Jarvie (1835-1929) was born in Manchester, England, and came to the U.S. with his family at the age of two. As a young man, Mr. Jarvie became interested in the coffee business, joining—and eventually becoming partner in—a New York-based coffee and sugar commodities firm. Due to his success, business acumen and personal integrity, Mr. Jarvie was highly sought after as an adviser to corporations, and he served on the boards of the Central Hanover Bank and Trust Company, Guarantee Trust Company, Mutual Life Insurance Company and Southern Pacific Company, among others.

From his early adult years, Mr. Jarvie regarded himself as a steward of God, sharing both his talents and resources. Philanthropic giving was a lifelong commitment.

Mr. Jarvie was a lifelong Presbyterian and contributed generously to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and to Presbyterian-affiliated entities. He made a substantial contribution toward the renovation and rebuilding of the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Bloomfield, New Jersey, and he underwrote the installation of its beautiful memorial windows with the dedication: “Erected to the glory of God and in loving memory of Helen Venderveer Newtown, wife of James Newbegin Jarvie.” He was an incorporator of the Board of National Missions and was a member for 13 years.


Simple Faith put to dynamic action

His religion was a simple faith put into dynamic action for his God through involvement in many causes, both local and around the world. He visited the Holy Land many times, and in 1924, he donated funds to build the magnificent YMCA building in Jerusalem, which is still regarded as an outstanding example of architectural beauty. He also provided substantial funds for its maintenance.

The Jarvie Program

In addition to his generous giving to social, civic and religious organizations, Mr. Jarvie was keenly aware of the particular challenges facing older persons who had lived in comfortable circumstances for most of the lives and had enjoyed the benefits of education and culture, but who experienced financial reversals in their later years. He was particularly concerned for those who suffered from loneliness, health issues and spiritual deprivation but were unable or reluctant to ask for help.

As he learned of people in that condition, Mr. Jarvie contributed discreetly from his personal funds to ease their financial burdens and make it possible for them to continue their educational and cultural interests. As he received a mounting number of requests for assistance, he realized the value in creating a formal program and organization that would continue his philanthropic commitment to such individuals long after his death. Thus, in 1925, Mr. Jarvie created and endowed what became the Jarvie Commonweal Service, or the Jarvie Program.

From the time of the Service’s inception until his death in 1929, Mr. Jarvie personally directed the program. After his death, the Service was led by a board of directors, and in 1934, responsibility for managing the endowment fund and operating the Service was transferred to the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The ongoing stability and vitality of the Jarvie Commonweal Service is a tribute to James N. Jarvie and his compassion for fellow human beings, his commitment to service, and his faith in God.