This year, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s 61st annual Summer Party will honor Martin and Jean Shafiroff. This comes as no surprise, as Jean’s name has become synonymous with philanthropy across the East End and in New York City. The larger-than-life gowns she often wears in photographs bring awareness to a specific charitable cause she’s supporting. Her life is glamorous — that’s part of the allure — but behind each photograph stands a woman on a mission: to better the world around her.
How did you become involved with Southampton Hospital?
I chaired the galas in 2010, 2011, and 2013. Those years we raised a combined total of $5.4 million. I was the only chairwoman. I went out and raised a lot of money for them by selling tables at all different prices. I additionally donate $50,000 every year I chair. This year I joined their board, the Southampton Hospital Association Board.
What is ahead for the hospital?
We’ve decided to build a new hospital with a budget of $340 million. That will probably be in the next five years, and we will have plenty of naming opportunities for a cost of $150 million or maybe a little less. We’re confident that we will receive funding. Beyond that, there are outposts in East Hampton, in Montauk. We now have a whole new cancer care unit, the Philips Family Center. We have a heart center, a breast center, a wellness center. The LGBT Center was renamed the Edith Windsor Center. We really are equipped to service the entire community.
How do you feel about being honored this year?
My husband is shy about these things, but I convinced him. I said yes, we should do it. He’s also very involved; obviously, we donate together. I think my biggest role with the hospital has been in fundraising for them, and getting the word out, and my enthusiasm for the hospital and the importance of it in the community. So, this year, we’re going to give $100,000, and this year I’ve raised about $300,000 with that and gifts.
You’re involved in many causes. Why do you choose Southampton Hospital year after year?
I’m on eight charity boards. But the hospital really holds the community together, because without a good hospital, a community changes very drastically. This hospital serves everyone. We have many underserved people in the Hamptons; we have a big immigrant population, we have people that live at or below the poverty level. And the hospital doesn’t turn anybody down — that’s very important. We see about 25,000 people walk through the emergency room every year. The majority of cases are young people. Without that hospital, I think a lot of people wouldn’t want to be in the Hamptons.
I read about people that go to certain islands for vacations and something happens, a young person gets sick. Sometimes they drink too much, or they party too much, and they end up dying because there’s no place for them to get medical care. When people think of hospitals, they think of old people, but take a look at our emergency room and you’ll see a whole different picture. This hospital is a very strong epicenter of the community.
What have you learned about fundraising?
I truly believe that those that have resources, financial resources, have an obligation to give. I wish everybody felt that way. We waste our lifetime if we don’t get involved in the giving back process. When God gives gifts to people, I think he expects them to share them. Philanthropy is vitally important. There are so many people that have so much hardship, and it is our obligation to do something.
I feel blessed to be able to do it. I think I would feel very idle if I didn’t do it and feel pretty useless. It’s been a great thing for me and it’s very exciting to be involved with these charities, the planning and then rallying up enthusiasm. It’s so nice to see how many people really are interested in these causes.
You’re known for arriving in your gowns. What do you do with them?
I like clothing. It’s a hobby of mine but I’d never buy a dress and not give. If anything, I’ll give first and then get the dress. But my big gown collection is being archived. Right now, I’m still experiencing wearing the gowns, but at one point I’m going to donate it all to a museum. I haven’t decided which museum, but it’ll happen.
The Summer Party gala will take place in the fields at Wickapogue Road and Old Town Road in Southampton on Saturday, August 3.