PCC Board Member Named "Person of the Year" by Nassau Herald
Hewlett's Jay Greenbaum is known to friends and family as the "marathon man." Through those competitions and triathlons, he has raised thousands of dollars for multiple charities.
Jay Greenbaum, a lifelong Hewlett resident who has raised thousands of dollars for various organizations and programs since the 1990s by competing in marathons and triathlons, is the Herald’s 2011 Person of the Year.
Greenbaum, 54, has run in the Philadelphia Marathon, in 2006, the Long Island Marathon, in 2010, and the last four New York City Marathons. He runs three or four times a week, takes an indoor cycling class three times a week and swims twice a week. After three of his five daughters took up competitive swimming, he was inspired to adopt a more active lifestyle.
The Lawrence Woodmere Academy alumnus began taking part in charitable work in the early 1990s, when he was invited to join the board at Block Institute in New York City, a nonprofit agency that seeks to improve the lives of disabled people and their families. He served as a board member, secretary, vice president and, from 2001 to 2003, president, and is still active on the organization’s board.
His first attempt at raising money was as a participant in a triathlon in 2004, and he raised $10,000 for the institute. “Through activegiving.com, I created my own sponsorship website and asked the world to sponsor me and donate money,” he explained. “People want to help the people who are doing the heavy lifting. In the beginning, a lot of people would say, ‘I’m on my couch doing nothing and you’re out there running; the least I could do is write you a check.’ But eventually they said, ‘It’s getting expensive to be friends with you!’”
Six years ago, Greenbaum was asked to join the Board of Directors of the Peninsula Counseling Center in Valley Stream, where he is now president. “He gives 110 percent of himself in everything he does,” said Audrey Goodman, the PCC’s community relations coordinator, who calls Greenbaum “the marathon man.” He raised $35,000 for the center when he ran the Long Island Marathon.
Peninsula Counseling Center is challenged to continue offering services while New York state slashes its annual budgets and restructures Medicaid reimbursements, he said. “While budgets are being squeezed because of the economy, the services are needed now more than ever before,” Greenbaum said. “Fundraising is critical to fill in the shortfall.” Steven Sherman, Greenbaum’s business partner at Rockville Benefit Advisors LLC, in Rockville Centre, and a longtime friend, met Greenbaum at the Lawrence Tennis Club nearly 20 years ago. They ended up working together by accident. “We were having a conversation over a bagel, and I asked, ‘What do you do?’ and he said, ‘Same as you,’” Sherman recalled. “I thought he was an attorney, but he said he was in the insurance business, so I told him maybe we could do something together.”
Two weeks later, Greenbaum came to work with Sherman at Wall and William Financial Group in New York City, and eventually the pair opened Rockville Benefit Advisors. “Eighteen years later we’re best of friends and partners,” Sherman said.
He added that he admires Greenbaum’s charitable work and his ability to be active around the clock. “He’s got a different time clock from the rest of us because he’s doing work when some of us are still sleeping,” Sherman said. “He’s high-energy, high-motivation and is actively involved while still finding time to go golfing, play tennis and be a good family man.”
Greenbaum’s family — daughters Jessica, 25, Jaclyn, 23, Lana, 22, Ivy, 17, and Abigail, 14, and his wife of 19 years, Pam — support him in all of his endeavors. “I get up with him at 4 a.m. and wait at the finish line,” Pam said. “I’m proud and impressed with what he does.”
Jay also helps to raise money for his temple, Congregation Beth Emeth in Hewlett. Rabbi Elliot Skiddell described him as kind-hearted and generous. “He cares deeply about our synagogue and about the wider community,” Skiddell said. “He’s always looking for ways to raise funds for the causes he believes in, and there are many, but more importantly, he is always trying to raise awareness in the community about the organizations that he is involved in. We’re proud to have Jay and his family as members of our Beth Emeth community.” The largest amount Greenbaum has raised for one cause was $50,000, through two triathlons he organized in 2010 and this year. The money was donated to the Adam Cohen and Jonah Richman Adolescence Center, which opened in May 2009 at the PCC. It is named in honor of the former Hewlett High School students and Camp Baco counselors who drowned in the Boquet River in the Adirondacks in August 2003. “It helps teens through counseling services and screenings for kids at risk and kids in need,” Greenbaum said of the center.
He is now planning to raise money for the PCC and the Block Institute by participating in the 2012 Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City and New Jersey next Aug. 11. Following the format of other Ironman triathlons, it will consist of a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River, a 112-mile bike leg on the Palisades Parkway and a 26.2-mile run starting in Fort Lee, N.J., and finishing in Riverside Park in Manhattan.
Thinking of the people who sponsor his charitable efforts helps sustain him when he competes in these sometimes staggeringly difficult events, Greenbaum explained. “You think about all the people who support your efforts and it helps push you through,” he said. “It really does.”
He insists that when he competes, his finish times are not as important as the money he raises. “I’m in the ‘martini lane,’ and I hang back and let the other guys around me go ahead,” he said. “Any race you finish is a good race.”
Jay Greenbaum has run in the New York City Marathon for the past four years to raise money for charity.
This article originally appeared in the Five Towns Herald.