Honored this past weekend for her work with the Southampton Animal Shelter, Jean Shafiroff finds the Hamptons is as much about finding peace as it is about giving back.
Jean Shafiroff’s gala gowns are as notable as her high-profile charity work.
Philanthropist and animal advocate Jean Shafiroff is one of the Hamptons’ most effective—and stylish—fundraisers. “I started initially by getting involved with our club, which has a charitable foundation; I love what we do because we give funds to the local charities that don’t have the capability to raise money on their own,” says Shafiroff of her role on the board of the Southampton Bath and Tennis Club’s charitable arm. “I am very fortunate and blessed to be in the position to do this. When God gives you gifts, you have a responsibility to help out. I would encourage everybody when they’re summering in the Hamptons to think about the people who live here full-time. We are lucky to come into the community and enjoy it for the summer, but I think part of being here is helping make the hospital, the Parrish Art Museum, Guild Hall, and other organizations better places so that everyone can enjoy the community."
In June, Shafiroff was honored by The Ellen Hermanson Foundation at its Summer Solstice celebration. “My mother and my grandmother had breast cancer, so for me, it’s very emotional,” she says of working with the organization that serves breast cancer patients on Long Island through educational outreach, psychological support, and pain management research.
“You can also have a very quiet time with your family,” says Shafiroff, at home in Southampton.
On July 19, she chaired the Fifth Annual Unconditional Love Dinner Dance to benefit the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, an organization her youngest daughter, Elizabeth, encouraged her to start working with. Earlier this year, Shafiroff and photographer Patrick McMullan hosted Pit Bulls as Pets, an event that raised awareness for the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation’s pit bull adoption program. “The shelter today has about 30 pit bulls; they stay there the longest of the dogs because they’re not being adopted,” says Shafiroff of the breed (her family has two: Bella and Daisy). “If you train a dog properly and show it loving kindness, it makes a wonderful pet.”
As vast and notable as Shafiroff’s charitable involvements are the ball gowns she wears to the many galas. It’s a collection that has earned her a place on a number of best-dressed lists. “My collection of ball gowns will hopefully be donated to a museum either in New York or somewhere else in the United States,” says Shafiroff, who holds a place on The Museum at FIT’s Couture Council board of directors. “I want to keep them as a collection. Right now, I’m working on how I can better store them and preserve them so that in years to come, they will tell a story of the social philanthropic world in Southampton and New York.”
Her style is similar to that of the late Jackie O.
After receiving a master’s degree from Columbia Business School, Shafiroff started a career on Wall Street in the public finance and private partnerships sector, including a stint as an associate in the corporate finance department of the New York investment-banking firm L.F. Rothschild, Unterberg, Towbin. “I am so grateful for my MBA; it has helped me understand how to run a charity event,” says Shafiroff, who is currently writing a book about philanthropy, scheduled for release next year. “Even though my career was very short-lived—I only worked for three years and then stopped working to raise my children—it was invaluable."
A Long Island native, Shafiroff first discovered the Hamptons in her 20s along with two female friends. “We were all in college and rented the top of a house in Southampton, a share for every other weekend,” she says. “I had the best time of my life.”
A photo of Shafiroff and her husband, Martin, at one of the many galas they attend.
Today, she enjoys the East End with her husband, Martin, and their daughters, Jacqueline and Elizabeth. “As busy as all of us get in the Hamptons, you can also have a very quiet time with your family,” says Shafiroff. “For someone like myself, who likes to get involved in the community, I have so many different great groups to work with, but I also love the serenity. At home, we can be as quiet as we want and I think that’s very important for most people when they go to a second home. They need to have a little peace.”
Although the family lives in Southampton, Shafiroff finds something special about each of the community’s villages. “When I feel like I want to get away, I go to Sag Harbor because I feel like I’m in New England,” she confesses. “I also love going to Sunset Beach on Shelter Island. I love going out to East Hampton to Nick & Toni’s. It’s great driving around playing tourist. Out in the Hamptons, I still feel like a young girl in many ways, and I just love life.”