Mamie Kanfer Stewart

"Brooklyn Community Foundation helps me do my own philanthropy more effectively.”

Brooklyn Community Foundation Donor Advisor Mamie Kanfer Stewart grew up in a family that values working together and giving together. Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Mamie’s family business, GOJO Industries (the inventor of Purell Hand Sanitizer) has fostered generations of philanthropists. Mamie, her husband Justin, and their two young daughters now call Brooklyn home, where they are carrying on their family traditions. 

“My father and my grandfather started our family foundation in the 1960s and they really did it as a way to give together. They were able to pool their funds to have bigger impact,” she said. “It was never about putting their names on buildings to get recognition, but being able to build relationships with the organizations.” 

“My dad really believes in creating opportunities for family to work together, not just in business. Philanthropy is a space where we can come together as a family to do meaningful work in the world.”

Shortly after attending art school in Kansas City (where she and Justin met), she was invited to join her first nonprofit board of directors, and became the board’s Chair by the time she was 25. Mamie and Justin moved to New York City in 2008, and two years later settled in Prospect Heights. In addition to serving as a Director of her family’s two foundations, Mamie and Justin started their own fund with Brooklyn Community Foundation last year—creating a new tradition of giving in their new home of Brooklyn.

“We love Brooklyn. There is no better place in the world to raise our kids than in Brooklyn where they can walk to school, walk to the park. They are around people of all different races and religions, shapes and sizes, all the time. It is an amazing, amazing city.”

Raising their daughters in Brooklyn also means instilling them with a sense of giving back. “My parents taught us the Jewish traditions,” a practice she has passed on to her daughters as well. “We make them save a portion of their weekly allowance and it goes into the tzedakah box to be given away.” Tzedakah is Hebrew for “charity or seeking justice,” and refers to the practice of giving money to those less fortunate.

Mamie and Justin are also showing their daughters what it means to be part of a strong community. “Clearly there are a lot of challenges that Brooklyn has as a borough, and I think it is the responsibility of its citizens to take care of it, which is why we’re involved in the Community Foundation."

Now with their Donor Advised Fund, Mamie and Justin give to a broad range of organizations, focusing on climate change, local efforts around hunger and poverty, arts and culture, and education.Among their favorite Brooklyn nonprofits are Invisible Dog Art Center, Neighbors Together, and Prospect Park Alliance.

“I grew up in Ohio in a relatively small community so you kind of knew what was going on. Brooklyn is just huge, which means that there’s so many incredible things that are happening. But also that there are a lot of challenges which are not always easily seen. The problems are much bigger in some ways.”

“Brooklyn Community Foundation is a great philanthropic partner who has helped us understand some of the unique challenges to our community and what organizations are tackling them. Now, when I get excited about something, I know who to go to, to learn more about who’s working on solving this issue.”