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I've always been passionate about helping others. It's why when I was first asked to be on Suffolk’s Giving Circle committee, I didn't hesitate. The Giving Circle is a nonprofit run by Suffolk employees and mainly funded by employees’ deductions from their paycheck, along with donations from trade partners. That money we take, we turn right back around and give it to people in need.
When requests come in, I just listen. It's very hard for people to talk about what they're going through, and they don't want to ask for financial assistance. We try to tell them that we don't want to have money in our account. We want to give it all right back.
We get all sorts of requests. The ones that are the hardest for me involve kids. With three of my own, I know that if anything were to ever happen to them, it would be the worst thing in the world. We’ll hear from families with a young child who's terminally ill and will likely pass away in the next six months, and all they really want is to just focus on being with their child. I'm usually holding back tears as these people tell me their stories. But to know that we can fulfill a request for help with medical bills, rent, car payments or travel, all so they can just be with their child for the time that they have left to live — that’s a good feeling.
In April 2011, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He battled it for a while and ultimately lost that fight. I had been on the Giving Circle committee for a few years at that point, and I realized how tough it is feeling like you're in need and wanting to ask for something. My mom was traveling here from New York while my dad was receiving chemo treatments at Dana-Farber, and she was paying for hotel rooms, parking and meals while she was here. So, I finally did approach the Giving Circle and said, “If there's anything that you can do for me and my family, we would be extremely grateful for it.” The rest of the committee members discussed it and approved helping to make some of those payments. My mom could just focus on my dad while he was fighting for his life.
We want to give it all right back.
To have that personal experience now helps with the conversations I’m having every day. When I’m on the jobsite, I see the faces of the people we’re helping. It's very personal what these people bring to us. I tell them that we realize you're a proud person and a proud family, but it's OK to ask. It's what we're here to do. It's what we're proud to do.
Jake Hafensteiner is a senior project manager at Suffolk. He lives north of Boston with his wife and three sons, who spend as much time as possible outdoors and playing sports.
Learn more about Suffolk's Giving Circle here.
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