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Who’s Here: Jean Shafiroff, Philanthropist

“Giving back is a tradition,” practiced with vigor and vitality by Jean Shafiroff, who is a prototype of modern-day American philanthropy. As the event chair of the Southampton Hospital’s Summer Party, Shafiroff has helped make Southampton Hospital a place to be proud of. In her fifth year of involvement and her second as Event Chair, she approaches her mission with passion and commitment.

I sat down with Shafiroff at Le Cirque restaurant in Manhattan to conduct this interview to find out a little more about her volunteer work for Southampton Hospital’s Summer Party.

She grew up on Long Island and has lived in New York City for most of her life. In addition, Shafiroff has been a summer resident of Southampton for the past 15 years. She enjoys spending her private time with her husband and two daughters. The family actively supports the Southampton Animal Shelter, and has rescued four dogs and one cat. This summer, their two daughters, Elizabeth and Jackie, served as Junior Chairs of the shelter’s Unconditional Love Gala Honoring Karen LeFrak. Shafiroff is also a member of the Metropolitan Opera Club, the Doubles Club and the Southampton Bath and Tennis Club.

She holds an MBA from Columbia University and a BS in Physical Therapy from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She has worked in public finance and private partnerships on Wall Street, and prior to that was a physical therapist at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. She learned early of the importance of being able to assist those in need. [expand]

Shafiroff supports many charities, including the New York Women’s Foundation, Lighthouse International, the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS) and Southampton Bath and Tennis Club Charitable Foundation, to name a few, though her primary focus now is Southampton Hospital. She said, “the planning and fundraising for the following year begins in August, within days of disassembling the tent from the summer party.”

Shafiroff appears like a conductor of a symphony orchestra, watching each section so they perform collaboratively to perfection. Somewhat guarded in her responses, she always emphasizes the “we” instead of “I.” She works long hours on charity, from meetings during the day to e-mails late at night. “I will discuss the charity if someone seems interested,” she said.

I asked her how she feels about being turned down when she asks for support, “it’s not always easy, but I try not to take it personally. If an individual does not want to contribute this year, perhaps they may want to get involved in future years. Asking people to donate can be difficult, but I remember that I am not asking for myself. Some people are committed to other charities. Others have had financial and personal setbacks. It is key to understand this and accept it.”

Among the funding innovations Shafiroff has accomplished for the Hospital, she has assembled a group of Vice Chairs, all of whom have contributed $10,000 or more. The result is 38 Vice Chairs and counting, plus Chairs of other sectors. She is very committed to a team approach, “let’s do this together, if you can help financially, that’s wonderful, if you can donate with your time, also wonderful.”

When the hospital received $5 million from Jenny and John Paulson, it was assigned to the ER with the aim of making it one of the best emergency rooms on the East Coast. Today the revitalized ER facility serves more than 25,000 people a year, from Montauk to Westhampton. “When you drive on Route 27 you see many ambulances taking their sick and injured to Southampton Hospital,” Shafiroff said.

What I personally felt came across most strongly during this exchange was that Shafiroff really loves her work. She speaks with unyielding passion about helping people in any and every way she can. Her family—her husband and two daughters—supports her passion for charity. So important is her desire to help out, and she is making that happen. We are certain to see more from her and the results of her approach to philanthropy.

Southampton Hospital’s 53rd Annual Summer Party, an evening of cocktails, silent auction, raffle, dinner and dancing to benefit The Jenny and John Paulson Emergency Department, Saturday, August 6, 6:30 to 11 p.m. Corner of Wickapogue and Old Town Roads, Southampton. Table sponsorships start at $7,500. Tickets are $750 per person and $375 for Juniors (35 and under). For more information about tickets and special events, call 631-726-8700 ext. 3 or 7.  [/expand]

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