Steven Sunshine, 55, has had his share of hardships, including undergoing a bone marrow transplant in 2006. When Sunshine’s sister was found to be a donor match, providing him with the needed marrow, he was acutely aware that not everybody is so fortunate. From this realization, a new endeavor was born for him and his wife, Ann.
“In the process of my treatment, we met a lot of people who didn’t have matches, and it’s pretty sad to see. So we started going out and registering people. At that time, if you didn’t meet certain criteria, you actually had to pay to register,” he said. “So we raised money to offset this cost, because we thought it was kind of crazy that people had to pay to be in the registry.”
In terms of tzedakah, however, Sunshine’s deepest passion is for the work he does at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s food pantry, which for Sunshine is a family affair. Steve and Ann are deeply involved in the pantry, and he has helped to reorganize how food is ordered, stored, bagged and distributed, although he credits the pantry’s success to the devotion of all the volunteers, including people of all ages.
A resident of Pasadena, Sunshine works for a technology company; he’s a graduate of Brown University, and earned an MBA from USC and a doctorate in chemistry from Northwestern University. His specialty is turning data collected by entertainment ticket companies, such as Ticketmaster, into useful information, he said.
But as much as possible, Sunshine devotes his rare spare time to the synagogue’s committee focused on tikkun olam initiatives, including the pantry. He first became involved with the temple food pantry as part of his son’s bar mitzvah project more than five years ago, he said, and has shown up on Sunday virtually every week since.
The pantry serves people struggling with food insecurity, homelessness and poverty by offering them sandwiches, drinks and more. Sunshine’s responsibilities include ordering food from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, purchasing additional items from Costco and more, he said.
“It feels good to be able to give back to those who need it,” he said.
He said he and Ann have attempted to raise their two children, 18-year-old Ezra and 21-year-old Isabel — who has started a bone marrow transplant charity — with a down-to-earth attitude about giving.
“It’s all an extension of how we think one should be in the world. I don’t think we think of it as menschy,” he said. “I think we just think it’s the right thing to do.”