Maria Fishel lives in an awe-inspiring expansive estate in Bridgehampton, a place where she and her husband, Kenneth, have hosted many spectacular charity events throughout the years. She’s beautiful, smart, raised two successful children, and leads a fulfilling and fabulous life. In addition to these attributes, Maria has an inner beauty that feeds her passion for helping others.
Social Life sat down with Maria to learn more about this dynamic Hamptons socialite and gain insight into what drives her to serve and contribute.
How have your life experiences influenced your work in philanthropy today?
Growing up in Ecuador, I saw the great disparity between extreme wealth and extreme poverty, which left me appreciative of my life and with the belief that if I am in a position to help alleviate suffering, I should try my very best to do so.
As a volunteer fundraiser and leader of several charitable causes, what have been some of the highlights and challenges on your quest to improve the lives of others?
It has been very satisfying raising money to assist in the quest for cures for cancer. Various organizations have extremely important needs, and to see the results when you work so closely with them has been gratifying, as the disease affects so many people. One challenge has been to influence people to become involved in a cause. However, I have found that when they understand the importance of their involvement and that they can make a difference, they do so enthusiastically and excitedly.
What advice can you offer women who are looking to work in the non-profit sector?
You can give in many ways simply beyond making a financial donation. Being a woman, I have many insights into things that men would find interesting and fascinating, such as home design and hosting a great party that appeals to people’s emotions. It makes people want to get involved. Socializing with a purpose is much more fulfilling both for the participants and society.
As a role model for women, can you share your tips for striking a sustainable work-life balance?
Try to encourage your children to give back at an early age and teach the value of self-reliance and independence while building a team within the family.
Do you have a philanthropist that you look up to?
I admire Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation because she takes on causes that are unfashionable to some, such as malaria and improving drinking water. Her efforts are astounding.
You and your husband, Kenneth, are known for hosting fabulous fundraising parties at your estate in the Hamptons. Can you share your experience of what it’s like to host at home?
We’re fortunate enough to have many acres that we can donate for events. We enjoy giving back with our land. We’re honored to have the ability to share our home.
You’ve been committed to supporting multiple charities that help raise money for cancer research. Is there a particular driver for you in that quest?
Unfortunately, my husband’s parents and my father passed away from cancer. One in three people will be affected by the disease in their lifetime. It is a pervasive disease and has the ability to hurt many if we do not figure out how to develop a cure.
We understand your children are following in your footsteps by having burgeoning careers in philanthropy. Can you tell us about them and their endeavors?
My daughter, Melissa, volunteered her time at the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation [SWCRF] for two years as an assistant researcher in their lab. She assisted in publishing a study about breast cancer that inspired her to attend medical school. My son, Bradley, contributed to SWCRF by helping to raise millennial society interests in philanthropy. He participates in the Prostate Cancer Foundation Charles F. Evans Pro-Am Tennis Tournament. They both know the importance of philanthropy.
Your husband, Kenneth, is the CEO of Renaissance Properties, a real estate business founded by his grandfather, in 1951. Is there a connection between his firm and your philanthropic activities?
Our company is trying to give back to the community with our latest projects in Aventura — Miami-Dade County in Florida. We are creating a public space as a gallery and encouraging new and emerging artists to contribute their creativity to the space and inspire themselves as well as the local community.
What is your philanthropic dream?
To cure cancer and to make the world a better place.
Is the environment in the Hamptons a supportive and charitable community?
Very much so. The Hamptons is a place where everyone is receptive to the idea of charitable giving and you can truly grasp their attention.
Maria Fishel’s Favorite Charitable Things
• Yearly event we love: The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation “Hamptons Happening.” This year it is on July 14.
• Special donation procured: We were privileged to host Art Hamptons, which made a significant donation.
• Favorite philanthropic activity: Playing in the Prostate Cancer Foundation Charles F. Evans Pro-Am Tennis Tournament this August — and doing better this time!
• Favorite foundation: Fishel Family Charitable Foundation Inc.
Photography: Vital Agibalow for HENSEL
Hair Stylist: Inna Dolgodusheva
Makeup Artist: Yuliya Cezar
Interior Designer: Wendy Valliere of Seldom Scene Interiors