The Stein Family’s Tikun Olam Foundation


For longtime Jewish Community Foundation donors Mindy and Gene Stein, philanthropy is a very collaborative family business where all of the Steins’ children have been involved since they were kids. Today, the three Stein children— who all live outside Los Angeles—biannually rotate roles that include oversight for grantmaking, investments, and serving on the board of their family’s Tikun Olam Foundation (which also includes Mindy and Gene and four representatives of the Jewish Community Foundation).

“I have always admired the forward-thinking manner in which Mindy and Gene involved their children in the family’s philanthropy from the outset,” said Marvin Schotland, the Jewish Community Foundation’s president and CEO. He has worked with the Steins since they established their original Donor Advised Fund at The Foundation in 1991.

A Focus on Early Childhood Development

The Steins’ charitable mission is to assist vulnerable children by providing support to the child, the family, and the community, including educating and nurturing these children so they can become responsible, successful, and caring individuals. Since creating the Tikun Olam Foundation (meaning “healing the world”) in 2001, their mission has become more focused, and today, they concentrate the Tikun Olam Foundation’s grantmaking—which Mindy and Gene call “investments”—mainly in three areas of early childhood development: public education, infant mental health, and parenting skills to promote positive early learning experiences and encourage the development of strong families.

The Steins take a methodical approach. That includes an immersive informationgathering process, in-depth discussions, and fact finding with many childhood development leaders.

Both Mindy and Gene credit the Jewish Community Foundation and its Center for Designed Philanthropy for their role in recommending and vetting prospective organizations along with arranging site visits to prospective grant recipients.

“The education we receive through these visits has been invaluable,” said Mindy. “We tap the agencies’ knowledge and experience to crystallize our focus and enhance our philanthropy.”

Game-Changing Funding for Early Childhood Causes

The Steins initially began with modest grants for early childhood development, including for capacity-building functions such as technology and board development.

As their passion and knowledge grew, eventually they made an all-in commitment to early childhood development, with gamechanging funding for initiatives linked to the Steins’ specific areas of interest.

One of those grants was a collaborative multiyear award to KPCC, a local National Public Radio station, to hire a correspondent, Deepa Fernandes, who exclusively covers the early childhood development beat—a rarity in newsrooms today—and a position that could not have been created without the Tikun Olam Foundation’s support. As a result, over 120 broadcast and digital reports have been produced on early childhood education and development.

“Issue awareness and public education are key to achieving better outcomes in early childhood development,” said Gene. “Because KPCC covers many important societal issues, we thought it could do the same for early childhood development if it had the needed resource—a reporter dedicated to covering this specific area.”

Mindy and Gene speak with pride about a program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) that teaches and disseminates infant-family mental health best practices. A five-year $1 million grant last year created the Stein Tikun Olam Infant-Family Mental Health Initiative. It trains medical professionals to integrate infant-family mental health principles into daily clinical care and supports new programs and services for children from birth to age five and for their parents.

In its first year, the program had an immediate effect, training more than 700 professionals—triple the program’s goal—and expanding mental health treatment to young children and their families. More than 300 families have been served, with childhood psychologists coaching many parents on infant mental health principles and also developing a model to screen parents for stress and depression, providing assistance when needed.

“Thanks to the Steins’ transformative gift, Children’s Hospital LA has been able to launch a bold new initiative, infusing best practices in infant-family mental health into the medical care of our most vulnerable families,” said Dr. Marian E. Williams, associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at CHLA.

Earlier this year, the Tikun Olam Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, a leading national philanthropy supporting children’s well-being, made a $2 million collaborative gift to the Magnolia Community Initiative (MCI). MCI is a groundbreaking collaborative of organizations and community residents working to improve the well-being and quality of life for 35,000 LA children.

Mindy is past board chair of Children’s Bureau of Southern California, a respected child-abuse prevention agency that is a lead provider of resource services for MCI. She says MCI arose out of recognition that support and service systems were failing at-risk children and families. MCI focuses on a 500-block area in central Los Angeles with more than 70 public and private organizations joining forces with parents to help thousands of children and families develop resiliency.

According to Alex Morales, president and CEO of Children’s Bureau, “Mindy and Gene provide much more than financial support for Children’s Bureau and MCI. They promote our mission and bring new opportunities to help us prevent child abuse and neglect and strengthen families. They spend the time to understand our programs, get to know our staff, and take a long-term approach to their philanthropic investments.”

In the Jewish community, the Steins have directed significant support to Jewish Family Service (JFS), most recently for the New Moms Connect program, which provides care and resources to new mothers experiencing symptoms of perinatal and postpartum mood disorders.

“The Steins’ generosity and leadership have allowed JFS to provide new mothers undergoing difficult postpartum transitions to come together in a warm and therapeutic environment,” said Paul S. Castro, president and CEO. “Our program has affected countless families, and without the Steins, this would not have been possible.”

“Asking the Right Questions…”

Recently retired as vice chairman and director of Capital Strategy Research, a unit of the global investment management firm Capital Group Companies, Gene spent his career studying data and information to shape decision-making. He applies a similar approach to his philanthropy. “It comes down to asking the right questions and developing relationships with the people who have the knowledge,” he said. “But some part of every investment is judgment because you can never have perfect knowledge,” he added.

“We carefully observe the attributes and styles of the leaders, their longevity and stability,” Stein noted. Leadership is one of five hallmarks they seek in organizations, an attribute they value in the Jewish Community Foundation, where Gene serves on its Board of Trustees and as a member of the Investment Committee, and Mindy is a member of the General Community Grants Committee and has been an expert panelist at events. “Over our 25-year relationship with The Foundation, Marvin Schotland has been the CEO the entire time, and senior staff members with whom we interact are also long tenured. That longevity has been important to us,” said Gene.

About The Steins

Gene and Mindy Stein met in Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s. After graduating from UCLA with an engineering degree, Gene served as a commissioned officer in the US Public Health Service. Mindy, raised in San Antonio, Texas, relocated to D.C. after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin.

After earning his MBA at Harvard Business School, Gene joined Capital Group, where he spent his entire 43-year career. Mindy, after receiving a master’s degree from Hunter College of the City University in New York, worked as a speech pathologist in the LA Unified School District and Children’s Hospital LA.

Both speak admirably about how their parents and grandparents shaped their values. “All eight of our grandparents were European immigrants,” noted Gene, who while growing up in West LA watched his parents actively serve at Temple Beth Am and support Hadassah and the Jewish National Fund. Mindy added, “I grew up in a family of modest means, but we always had a tzedakah box in our house, and it was important that we were part of our community.”

Mindy and Gene have served their community with distinction, with Mindy working tirelessly as a past leader at Children’s Bureau, the La Canada Schools and Flintridge Preparatory School. For his part, Gene currently serves as a trustee of Pitzer College and is a member of the board of the LA Opera. Both serve on the board of the nonprofit ZERO TO THREE, which works to ensure the well-being and positive development of infants and toddlers.

A Focus on Family and Philanthropy

It is clear that family—as well as philanthropy—is the focus of their lives. Their oldest daughter, Shana, a psychiatrist in Princeton, NJ, and her husband, Adam Elga, are parents to Charlotte, David, and Samuel. Julie, their second born, is a pediatrician at UCSF Children’s Hospital. She is married to George O’Brien; they live in San Mateo, where they are raising daughters Georgia and Isabel. Andrew holds two degrees in engineering plus an MBA and works at LinkedIn in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Looking ahead, Gene and Mindy say the Tikun Olam Foundation will focus on four goals: remaining open to new ideas, seeking out meaningful programs where they can make a difference, identifying and funding at least one new organization per year, and making more multiyear grants.

“With the Jewish Community Foundation’s guidance and support, our family’s philanthropy has become much more strategic,” said Mindy. “We have immense gratitude for our good fortune and are blessed with the resources to do our part to improve society. For us it is a responsibility and a privilege to express our gratitude by making the world better for other people.”