Jay and Linda Grunin met at the NYU School of Law in 1966, where they were classmates, and immediately knew that they were meant for each other. Jay likes to think that being an Editor of the Law Review helped him gain Linda’s attention as she was one of only 10 females in their class of 300, and had her pick of suitors (“she was very cute also”).  Three years later they were married and on their way to practice law in a then little town on the Jersey Shore called Toms River.

Over the next 30 years, as Ocean County became the fastest growing county in the state, Jay and Linda’s law practice thrived. They had become respected attorneys in the County primarily due to their work ethic, moral approach to the law and ability to relate to their clients’ needs.

While the practice continued to grow, Jay and Linda expanded their business interests to include real estate and other investments. Each business decision was a true 50/50 partnership requiring unanimous approval. That has remained a constant from day one.

In the late 1990’s, Jay and Linda retired from the day to day law practice to concentrate full time on their two greatest passions — investing and philanthropy.

In 2013, Jeremy Grunin, their only child, returned home to Toms River, with his wife Laura and their three children, to assist his parents with their business investments and philanthropic endeavors.  They soon began to formalize their philanthropic activities.  The key driving principal guiding our efforts in the first three years was to make Toms River a regional template for The Arts, Education and Healthcare.

We realized the most significant impact we could make as a local-based and relatively new Foundation was to improve the capacity of small, medium and large non-profits in the Greater Toms River area so they would be free to make their programs both innovative and sustainable.

The Foundation is a proactive grant maker heavily active in the communities it has targeted to make an impact in, and is committed to identifying leaders and teams who it feels can bring their organizations to the next level, and beyond.

We:

  • believe a CEO’s best use of time is working to enhance his or her mission, not filling out paperwork. We are proudly a no-grant application foundation (if you are out there doing important work in an efficient manner, we will find you).
  • believe free, open and transparent conversations based on mutual honesty and respect, coupled with far-reaching collaboration is the only way to make a significant and positive impact.
  • approach each organization as a potential partner, listening, learning, rolling up the sleeves and working to improve each non-profit’s outcomes. With all significant partnerships, we take an active role to give additional, external and independent help when the CEO and Board agree it is necessary.  We were honored to be approached for strategic advice from partners throughout New Jersey.

We feel our approach is unconventional – it takes a lot of energy, time and resources but we feel this approach is working on a much grander scale than traditional philanthropy.

We know it is working because every local partner’s fundraising and operational capacity has increased exponentially above previous fundraising records (not including our earmarked Foundation funding).

In less than three years the Foundation’s reach has spread throughout NJ, and still remains centered in the Greater Toms River region.

In November 2015, we brought on Kelly Fliller, Director of Communications to begin a new stage of far-reaching and systems changing impact.

In the Spring of 2016 we began working on our next three-year strategy.  We realize we have a unique opportunity to use our philanthropy to increase citizen activity and economic development through the arts, healthcare and education.

Our key driver will be to ensure the Ocean/Monmouth region becomes a magnet in the Northeast for active citizens who want to enjoy arts and culture, push social innovation and pursue cutting-edge business strategies.

Our Impact So Far

In November 2015, we analyzed the overall impact of our investments in The Arts, Education and Healthcare.

Arts:

  • Leading New Jersey funding the Arts Education Integration Collective Impact strategy through the Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, NJ Department of Education, NJ Department of the Arts, the Arts & Education Partnership and Arts Education.
  • NJ State Teen Arts Festival returns to NJ after a decade absence hosted at Ocean County College’s Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts.
  • Engage Toms River programs have engaged more than 15,000 people in the arts and awarded over $70,000 to local artists.
  • The Grunin Arts Center at Ocean County College is now reaching a statewide audience and proudly boasting sell-out performances with Broadway caliber bookings.

Education:

  • All 19 schools in the Toms River Regional Schools District received full funding for programs aimed at innovating their school’s overall curriculum. Over $189K was given in 2016 alone.
  • We are the top sponsor for Toms River Regional School District’s Makersfest and created the TR Robot Smackdown.
  • We helped to hire and fully funded a full time grants writer for the District.

Healthcare:

  • Community Medical Center now has the state of the art Jay and Linda Grunin Neuroscience Institute.
  • Community Medical Center is also on the national map for the American Cancer Society’s Inspiration Boutique. We are proud to have underwritten one of the most comprehensive programs for breast cancer survivors.
  • Ocean County YMCA is now the leader in health and wellness in our community.
  • We spearheaded the $200K grant awarding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s NJ Health Initiative and formalized our loose coalition of community partners to begin the Toms River Family Health and Support Coalition. With over 60 non-profits, businesses, leaders and philanthropists we are one of the largest coalitions in NJ.

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