Sondra Stephens, center, stands with two marines during last year’s Toys for Tots campaign.
SCHENECTADY One woman’s name is probably as synonymous with the many causes she supports as it is with her jewelry.
Sondra Stephens, owner of Sondra’s Fine Jewelry located on Union Street in Schenectady, has run a successful business for nearly 15 years, but the most important thing to her is remembering the community that helped her succeed. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry, said Stephens, meant she had to work even harder to start a successful jewelry store. Starting with an inventory on her dining room table, she was able to open a store at her current location four years later.
Once she hade “made it” she decided to dedicate herself to charity and fundraising efforts supporting women and children, because she wanted to be remembered for more than just jewelry.
“There should be some kind of legacy that you leave behind,” Stephens said. “We run a business 6 days a week here and we have a very successful business and you could turn your back and do nothing, but we try to do what we can.”
She said giving back to the community is important to her and it is nice for people to know that somebody cares during their time of need.
Charity efforts started with people coming into her store and asking if she could help them out with a fundraiser by donating a piece of jewelry or contributing financially. Eventually, her efforts moved on to larger programs, such as Toy for Tots and raising money for Bellevue Woman’s Center for breast cancer awareness.
After the flooding from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee devastated the Capital District, Stephens and her son, Anthony Kaczmarek, decided to start a “grassroots” coat drive.
The first coat delivery went to flood victims in Montgomery and Schoharie counties and totaled over 300 coats. After having a successful coat drive, she decided she wanted to reach 600 coats, but now the number is topping off around 1,000 as the drive comes to an end.