Philanthropist Jessica Seinfeld on Raising Like-Minded Kids: "It's a Struggle to Instill Values in Your Children"

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Jessica Seinfeld

The Good+ Foundation founder and president talks about her husband's involvement and how "magical" it has been to help families in need.

Fifteen years ago, Jessica Seinfeld launched the charitable organization Baby Buggy as a way to support mothers-in-need and help them get necessities such as diapers and strollers. Seinfeld learned quickly that needs stretched beyond goods. 

"Equipment isn't enough," she explained in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Beverly Hills power-lunch hot spot The Palm, which hosted the 2nd annual Los Angeles Fatherhood Lunch on April 20. "If you really want to help a baby, you have to help a whole family."

So they did, expanding Baby Buggy's offerings to include programs for everything from education and substance abuse to parenting classes and health-care services. Jessica and her staff then followed the family tree to bring fathers into the Baby Buggy fold, partnering on initiatives like Children's Institute's Project Fatherhood and an annual luncheon in both New York and L.A. 

This year's installment, again hosted by Jerry Seinfeld, carried a new name on the invite because Jessica pivoted another time, recently re-launching Baby Buggy as the Good+ Foundation as a way to better represent a philanthropic brand with a roster of corporate partners as diverse as its programs. Just before Wednesday's luncheon, Jessica talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the rebranding, Jerry's passion to be part of her work and the challenges of trying to raise children who are selfless. 

This is a big few weeks for you: rebranding the organization and coming back to Los Angeles for the next installment of the fatherhood event. What does it feel like to look back on where this started and where it is today?

I started this organization 15 years ago really having no big plans. It's amazing to look back and see how far we've come. It started with this really simple idea of getting equipment to families in need. What we learned early on is that you have to help the entire family. Sixty-three percent of the families we serve are led by single mothers, and we looked at the numbers and started strategizing on how we could help fix this problem of all these mothers working so hard yet still living in poverty. We wanted to work in a much more holistic way, trying to repair the whole family … and what we've seen so far has been pretty magical.

There are a lot of big events in this town backed by Hollywood and celebrities but few with fatherhood as the focus. Yet so many people look to Hollywood figures — even men — as role models. How difficult was it for you to get men here to support the cause?

What's interesting is that I didn't even have to ask my husband. He's heard me on the phone for the past five years as I've really focused on fatherhood, from everyone I pitched as a sponsor or people that I just talk to. A couple of years ago, he said to me one day, 'I love this fatherhood thing that you're doing. I want to do anything to help. You're working so hard, and it seems like an answer that no one is talking about. What can I do?' We were mapping it out at the same time trying to figure it out.

It's great that he just jumped in like that.

I don't like to ask him for anything. I like to be really self-sufficient. I have been since I was 5 years old — me asking anyone for help is the worst possible thing. Even yesterday, we did another site visit at CII, one of our programs downtown, and he asked me if he could come. I almost don't know what to do when he wants to come. We just got in the car, and he said, 'Tell me what I can do.' This is a guy who has Comedians in Cars, stand-up every weekend — he's so busy, and this is what he wants to do.

You're also both parents to three children. Your passion is authentic, and I'm sure its easy for your children to see that, but how difficult is it to lead them toward philanthropy and away from a privileged lifestyle?

It's a constant struggle to instill values in your children — the values that I grew up in. My mom is a social worker. I grew up my whole life volunteering, and Jerry grew up very middle class. It's really a struggle in the world today for all parents to raise their children with grounded values. We work so hard at it every single day. And I can just only hope that what I spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week working on somehow makes an impact. 

You've worked for two years on getting the name and rebranding right. Two-part question: What names got tossed out? And you also announced a clothing/accessories line with HSN to benefit Good+. What other ventures are waiting in the wings?

For the name, what we did grapple with was Goods+ or Good+. We do so much with pairing our goods with transformational services, but we do so much good in so many different ways outside of the goods, that we decided with Good+.

What else am I doing? The HSN line launches April 28, and we have so many events and exciting things coming up.
 

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