The Grunins (clockwise) Jeremy, Jay, Linda and Laura Photo: Mark R. Sullivan/ markrsullivan.com
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Eli Broad
What Does Philanthropy Look Like? Meet the Grunins STORY LILIANN PARAS
ay and Linda Grunin and their son, Jeremy, are the epitome of this adage and are bringing exciting change to Monmouth County through The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation (the “Foundation”). Although based in Toms River, the Grunins realized during the last four years that Monmouth and Ocean Counties together are “the footprint of the Central Jersey Shore area” and have recently expanded their philanthropic endeavors into Monmouth County. Jeremy, the Foundation’s President, is the first chairman of the newly combined United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. He is also the first person from Ocean County to sit on the Board of the Count Basie Theatre. As part of its expansion into Monmouth County, the Foundation recently made a $2 million transformative gift to the Basie to fund The Jay and Linda Grunin Arts and Education Building which will provide studios, classrooms, performance space and a base for the theater’s educational outreach and public programming. Their goal is to make the arts and arts education accessible to all ages and incomes. One of the most compelling initiatives is mindAligned, already underway as a pilot program for creative teaching in three school districts in each of the two counties. These schools are testing teaching methods that integrate fine and performing arts into daily lessons. Creative teaching has been shown to enhance attendance and learning for the students and also to inspire and retain teachers. Once perfected, the program will serve as a model for the entire state. Jay and Linda Grunin have supported various causes anonymously since the 1990s, believing anonymous giving was the highest form of philanthropy. Jay is often asked if there is a self-interest component associated with their philanthropy. As Jay explains it, “There are gratifying feelings of pride and satisfaction in knowing that we have done some good with the blessings that God has bestowed on us.” The Grunins did not consider “going public” until consultants explained the benefits of having name recognition. “We reevaluated and came to believe the best way to have an impact is to let people know that you are supportive of a project.” It may inspire others to lend their support, financial or otherwise. We laughed about the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, “Anonymous,” which was based on the premise that anonymous gifts are great, as long as everyone knows who “anonymous” is.