Citizens of the Movement: Mary Sommer and Jay Sandak

Congratulations to longtime buildOn supporters Mary Sommer and Jay Sandak for being recognized as Stamford, Connecticut’s 71st Annual Citizens of the Year!

Lifelong residents of buildOn’s home city of Stamford, Mary and Jay have been deeply involved in strengthening the community, including supporting buildOn for more than 15 years. These two outstanding citizens have demonstrated a strong belief that education must be afforded to all and have shown a commitment to ending extreme poverty throughout the world. Mary and Jay’s support for buildOn’s U.S. Service Learning Programs are making the local community a better place to live while preparing the next generation to be responsible citizens.

“We have always found it extremely important to be involved in the community,” Jay Sandak says. “It is a part of our DNA. The way that Mary and I were raised, we were always aware of issues in the community and what we could do to change things.”

Mary and Jay’s commitment to buildOn’s mission was strengthened when they traveled to Haiti to help in relief efforts following the devastating 2010 earthquake. They witnessed the destruction of so many school buildings and decided to partner with buildOn to help. Through the financial help of the Herbert and Nell Singer foundation, of which Jay is president, 40 schools were retrofitted to protect against any future earthquakes and four brand new schools were constructed. The couple has traveled to Haiti several times to visit these schools, and they even brought their children and spouses along to help break ground on one of the schools.

“Our engagement with buildOn is different than any other relationship we have,” Jay says. “Seeing the ribbon cutting on the new school was an inspiring experience for us. To see how grateful and gracious the people of Haiti are deeply moved us.”

Outside of buildOn, Mary and Jay serve in a number of advisory and committee positions and have served and advocated for issues such as juvenile justice, prison literacy, mental health, homelessness and paramedic services for the city.

“We are grateful Mary and Jay have been leaders in our movement to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education for more than 15 years,” buildOn Chief Revenue Officer Marc Friedman says. “Thank you for being the ignition that has propelled us to keep breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education.”

Along with the entire Stamford Community, we at buildOn would like to congratulate Mary Sommer and Jay Sandak on this prestigious and well deserved award! You can read more about Mary Sommer and Jay Sandak and Stamford’s 71st Annual Citizen of the Year Award in Stamford Plus.

Pictured: (At top) Mary Sommer, Jay Sandak and family visiting a school they funded in Haiti.


IMG_3932Mary and Jay visiting one of the many schools they helped buildOn construct the most economically impoverished areas of Haiti.

IMG_4296While serving with the people of Haiti, Mary and Jay have immersed themselves in the local culture while uniting behind buildOn’s mission.

IMG_4325Mary, Jay and family on the worksite of a school they helped construct. The family worked side by side with the community to dig the foundation for the school.