Steve and Elaine Jacobs stand in front of the CNY Philanthropy Center.

Steve and Elaine Jacobs: Giving from the Heart

“I realized that the people in this community were the same people who helped me build the business and become financially successful, therefore I knew I needed to give back to the community that helped me so much.”

“Look around at the community, look around at what you’re interested in and just begin to give,” is Elaine Jacobs’ advice for making a difference. From volunteering to hold babies at Crouse Hospital to helping create the East Area Family YMCA, Elaine and Steve see the positive impact that their giving has on our community.
The spirit of the Jacobs’ giving is fueled by their joint and complementary views in supporting strategic nonprofits and charitable organizations. The couple generously gives time, brainpower and funding to several organizations in Syracuse and the surrounding areas.

Prior to meeting Elaine, Steve opened a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation when he closed a small private foundation, hoping to simplify the management of his charitable giving. After selling his business – Stevens Office Interiors – 17 years later, he contributed to his fund so that he could spend the earnings on much more than just himself.

“When business owners decide to sell their businesses, they often aren’t thinking of where their wealth came from,” commented Steve. “In my case, I realized that the people in this community were the same people who helped me build the business and become financially successful, therefore I knew I needed to give back to the community that helped me so much.”

Steve’s charitable interests and focus have developed more fully in recent years, but there are several charities with which his involvement spans decades. He is a former board member for Community General Hospital Foundation, Junior Achievement of CNY, the Boy Scouts of America, and Cystic Fibrosis. Steve was also part of a small group of community volunteers which developed plans and raised funds for the Hal Welsh East Area Family YMCA.

Steve served on the board of the Community Foundation from 2012-2018, during which he served as chair of the Development Committee. It was through his board service that Steve began to see the broad needs of the community and he came to understand the Community Foundation’s role in addressing those needs.

Elaine was born in Pennsylvania and moved with her family to Syracuse when she was just three months old. She was raised on Onondaga Hill and was a member of Westhill High School’s first graduating class when its grades ran from 7-12. She is the mom of three children — two sons and a daughter — as well as a foster mother to several children through Catholic Charities.

Later in life, Elaine’s passion for fairness and social justice led to her pursuing her criminal justice degree at Onondaga Community College (OCC). Following graduation, she was featured in an advertising campaign to recruit other non-traditional students. Steve laughingly added, “I liked referring to Elaine as a billboard babe!”

Raised as a nurturer and time-giving philanthropist, Elaine found many organizations that needed her talents. She volunteers at St. Joseph’s Surgical Center, the Crouse Hospital nursery and at her church. Additionally, as a breast cancer survivor, Elaine donated many hours to the Race for the Cure and was appointed the board chair of the CNY affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Steve and Elaine met each other at Community General Hospital while Elaine was working as the executive assistant to the hospital’s president. “I would do all the work to prepare the minutes. Steve, who was the secretary on the Foundation board at the time, would just sign them and receive all the credit! He would even suggest ‘moving a comma here or a period there!’” Elaine noted with a hint of humorous exasperation.

Grammatical differences aside, Steve was drawn to Elaine’s warm and generous spirit. He asked the hospital president about the appropriateness of dating a hospital employee and the president enthusiastically offered his blessing. The rest is history.

The pair married in 2000 at which point Steve became a proud step­father to Elaine’s three children and grandfather to six grandsons. Steve thoughtfully remarked, “Our grandchildren bring immeasurable joy to our lives.” He added “Our hope is that our giving will result in a prosperous Central New York for them to appreciate for many years to come.”

Through their combined families, lives and philanthropy, Steve and Elaine have developed a deeper understanding of the power of both giving and receiving. Steve commented, “With challenges of both heart disease and breast cancer between us, we are grateful for those who contributed to research. Without them we might not be alive today.”

The Elaine & Steven Jacobs Fund will continue to support the community, through their estate, long after they’re gone. “If you give from your estate, you’re communicating values for generations to come,” noted Steve. “It’s important that people consider the values they want their children to have.”

After they pass on, the Jacobs’ donor-advised fund will transition into an endowment which will support the greatest needs of the Central New York region long after they are gone, with a preference to include human services and education.

“It’s important to entrust your legacy in a place where good people can make good decisions about how to utilize your money to create a better future for the community,” added Steve. “We have great confidence that the Community Foundation will properly steward our funds for years to come.”

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