The very good people over at Good Circle reached out to us just after we launched Beachouse. They were interested in contributing to the newsletter with a regular feature about the generous people who devote much of their time to East End causes. What ensued was a conversation about the hearts and minds that drive social capital within a community. What compels them? What’s in it for them? What satisfaction do they get from helping others?

It turns out we were conceiving a column about Giving. It seemed like a swell idea because the people that live in a community – and give to the community – are what truly make the community. Good Circle was founded on the premise that most of us want to give something back. Their business is an online funding platform (goodcircle.org) that taps our desire to make a difference while joining with others who care about the same things we do. It’s simple, it’s purpose-driven, and it’s brilliant because it solves the problem for individuals and businesses that feel passionately about a cause and seek a way to connect with it through a non-profit.

In their first column, Good Circle co-founders Fred Doss and Joan Overlock sat down with a titan of generosity, Julie Ratner.


julie-ratnerJulie Ratner

Dr. Julie Ratner established the Ellen Hermanson Foundation in 1997 to honor the memory of her sister who died from breast cancer aged 42. A fundraising vehicle for the Foundation, Ellen’s Run is an annual 5k race with proceeds supporting the Ellen Hermanson Breast Care Center at Southampton Hospital and Ellen’s Well, a program providing support for breast cancer survivors on the East End. Julie lives with her partner in East Hampton and Manhattan. She has two daughters.

BH: What is the mission of the Foundation?

Julie: It is based on what was important to Ellen – creating a legacy so that all women on the East End have the kind of services and access Ellen had at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. We reach out to minority and under-served communities of women who wouldn’t ordinarily get those services and men, who get breast cancer too. Almost 100% of our money raised stays in the Hamptons where it helps do the most good.

BH: Did you talk with Ellen about setting up a Foundation in the event of her death?

Julie: It was too difficult a conversation to have. She knew her time was limited but didn’t want it discussed. She was an amazing advocate for women who didn’t have a voice and she didn’t get to finish the job. It felt natural to pick up the mantel.

BH: Why did the Foundation become based in Southampton?

Julie: After Ellen was diagnosed, we spent happy times out here. The East End is a place I love and Ellen loved it too. But once the summer folks leave, it’s not a wealthy area – there are pockets of poverty needing services. Through research I found breast cancer diagnosis and mortality rates out here exceptionally high. I was a runner and we decided to have a run – Ellen’s Run. It was a tremendous success. The following year we established the Foundation.

BH: What has been the impact of the Foundation on the East End population?

Julie: We are a recognizable brand. Women now have access to state of the art, quality care in their own community and don’t need to leave the East End. Since opening in 2009, the Center at Southampton Hospital has become on a par with any teaching hospital in the New York area in terms of technology, equipment and competency and talent of staff.

B.H. Your work with the Foundation has helped so many women. What does that mean to you?

Julie: We’re all here to leave the world a little better. Our determination has actually changed the medical landscape, and women are being treated and served better. When Ellen was diagnosed, there was no one to guide her. Now there’s a designated patient navigator offering guidance. Most importantly I’ve carried on Ellen’s work. and her daughter Leora, now 26, has a sense of who her mother was.

BH: Do you still participate in Ellen’s Run?

Julie: I don’t run anymore, but I’m happy being a cheerleader!

BH: Where are the special East End events or places for you?

Julie: The drumming at Sagg Main Beach in the summer – it’s wonderful and something people don’t know much about. I love the movie theater in Sag Harbor – the smell reminds me of childhood! And Sunset Beach on Shelter Island – it’s like being in the Caribbean.

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