"My mom is a social worker, so I grew up with a pretty deep understanding of the challenges that many people face in this country," says Jessica Seinfeld, "especially if you are financially struggling." Seinfeld, the wife of Emmy Award-winning actor and comedian Jerry Seinfeld, found herself bombarded with gifts after the birth of their first child—daughter Sascha—and knew she wanted to do something with these presents that they didn't exactly need. "As my daughter was coming home from the hospital, I had so much stuff in my apartment that had been given to us as gifts, and I felt like I really wanted to use those items for families who couldn't afford them. I knew in my neighborhood that there were tons of people struggling, and I knew across New York City there were people who needed support in all kinds of ways."
But when she went searching for an organization to donate to, she came up empty-handed. "I looked and looked and asked my friends if they knew of anyone who might come pick up this stuff, and none of us could find an organization like that," she explains. "So, I guess what I thought was, 'I'll do a weekend-long drive, collect a ton of stuff and give it away and that will be it, and then I'll go on to be the mother of a newborn child myself.' " But things didn't go according to plan. "My daughter just turned 19, so we're doing this almost two decades later. The idea really resonated with people here in New York—it took off very quickly, and here we are."
Today, Good+Foundation, which Nordstrom has joined forces with for a give-back campaign this holiday season, provides low-income families with essential items like diapers and cribs and services like GED support, skills training and employment assistance. The foundation also has a special focus on fathers and the pivotal role they play in a family—and acknowledges that our society doesn't always help them in a constructive way. One of the biggest challenges, Seinfeld says, is "getting people to understand that one of the best ways we can support mothers and single mothers is by supporting fathers."
"We had been working with countless single mothers for about 10 years, and I kept looking at our numbers and wondering why the number of single mothers we have never changes," Seinfeld says. "While the issue of father absence is a national issue, I just kept wondering how we as an organization could address it," she explains, but ultimately, she found that there was a lack of social services that supported men and fathers. "We started to throw our support behind organizations that were working with fathers in helping them get their GEDs and with job training, vocational training, healthy relationship classes, parenting classes and how to get these fathers more engaged in their children's lives. It was like a different way of looking at how to help women and children. Most of [these men] had grown up without a father themselves, so we wanted to find a way to draw them back in, or if they were at home co-parenting, [teach them] how to co-parent more effectively, because our society doesn't promote that idea as much—but hopefully it will."
Married now for 20 years with three kids (Sascha, 19, and sons Julian and Shepherd, 16 and 14, respectively), Jessica was happily surprised at how involved her husband became in the foundation, especially in his role as the head of the Good+ Fatherhood Leadership Council. "It's really unexpected that he became so interested and involved with what I'm doing," she says of what it means to work with her husband in this capacity, especially considering how busy he is with his own work (his Netflix series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, premiered its 11th season this summer). "He's extremely hardworking and never stops traveling to do shows. He's constantly writing, and I don't see how he has the time or mindshare to absorb what I'm doing. But he's really, really committed to the importance of supporting fathers in this country and the critical role that they play in their children's lives. For him, fatherhood is the role of a lifetime, and he happens to be an extraordinary father. I think he feels really lucky to be able to help other men feel the same way."
This time of year, with the holidays on everyone's minds, toys and gifts might seem like the obvious choice for donations, but Seinfeld reminds us that everyday essentials are always needed. "I always say that the need for basic necessities never ends. When one of our moms or dads buys gifts, that usually means they're sacrificing something else like food or their utility bill or other basic necessities that make family life manageable. When parents can't afford to buy gifts because they have to buy diapers, you know that makes the holidays much harder on our families. I always think we can never stop giving enough basic necessities to our families because it frees up some funds for them to feel like everybody else in celebrating the holidays."
In celebration of the opening of its Manhattan flagship and the upcoming holidays, Nordstrom is working with the foundation this season and throughout 2020 to help those who are struggling. "We're very excited to be partnered with Nordstrom, because they really understand how important building strong families is in this country," Seinfeld tells us. "They understood that that's what we've been about since the beginning. They've watched us grow and evolve into an organization that not just helps babies, not just helps moms, but incorporates men and creates a very positive trajectory for the whole family."
From December 3-31, 2019, Nordstrom NYC shoppers can purchase a $10, $20 or $50 tag from our Holiday Trees at the flagship, Men's Store, Nordstrom Locals or online. 100% of these donations will go directly to support Good+Foundation programming and purchase necessities like diapers, bodysuits and car seats for families in need. Throughout the month of December, Nordstrom NYC will also host four Santa brunches, with 100% of ticket sales going to the foundation. "I don't think we could be luckier than to partner with an organization or a company like Nordstrom," says Seinfeld.
For more information on Good+Foundation and other ways to give back, please visit goodplusfoundation.org.