Through their work in the fields of medicine and education, Jef Sneider and Gwen Kay have spent their lives teaching and caring for adults. When the couple began giving charitably together, they both agreed on one thing: they wanted to address issues surrounding children and families who are experiencing poverty. 

By helping to finance early childhood education, childcare and literacy, they hope to champion children’s well-being and help to build more equitable futures for all members of our community.

“Gwen and I believe that helping families to get care for their children at an early age has a double effect on the adults and the children,” Jef said. “The children get an early head start and an opportunity to form additional social bonds. The parents get a break from childcare and the ability to pursue employment and career development opportunities.”

The couple became even more inspired when they learned about the Early Childhood Alliance, a coalition of community stakeholders working together to ensure that all children in Onondaga County are healthy, thriving, and ready to succeed in school and in life, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that has gifted millions of free books to children all around the globe, including here in Onondaga and Madison counties.

Growing up, Gwen went to the library every week with her family and became close with the children’s librarians. The pair both believed that libraries are a community asset because they are a resource where education and books are free. Literacy and education are key components to addressing poverty and its outcomes. 

Gwen explained that her favorite way to give has always been by filling the shelves of libraries with children’s books. Gwen and Jef have supported libraries both here in Syracuse and in Gwen’s hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania over the years. The couple additionally supports their congregation at Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas and organizations within the Jewish community.

When deciding the most secure and simplest way to continue their giving plan, the pair connected with us to set up a field-of-interest fund called the Kay/Sneider Literacy Fund.

“The Community Foundation has a great reputation for stewardship and we knew the proper due diligence would be taken to assess the biggest needs in the community within the areas of our giving preferences,” they said. “Opening this fund has allowed us to achieve balance by expanding our funding to the broader community while still supporting the Jewish organizations we care about.”

Gwen and Jef’s funding will continue to support organizations that provide early childhood education, childcare and literacy services.

“We hope our giving will encourage others to do the same by seeing how deeply we care about the well-being of the community and contribute to a thriving Central New York,” they said.