January 26, 2023

First 5 LA is deeply saddened by the loss of our dear colleague, Jeff Schnaufer, who passed away in December 2022. The January issue of the Early Childhood Matters newsletter, a publication that Jeff held close to his heart and contributed numerous articles to, will be dedicated to his memory and to the lasting legacy of his in-depth reporting on the stories of L.A. County families and communities. 

Jeff was a valued member of First 5 LA’s Office of Communications and served as the organization’s lead writer and editor for nearly ten years. He joined First 5 LA in January 2013, coming from a distinguished career in journalism, including his past role as a reporter for The Los Angeles Times where his coverage of the 1994 Northridge earthquake earned him a Pulitzer Prize.  

A gifted storyteller, Jeff had a knack for steering the complexity of First 5 LA’s early childhood development mission toward warm and poignant content that could reach and touch the hearts of colleagues, parents, families, community leaders, and local and state decision-makers. He was sharp, personable, and could instinctively weave a meaningful metaphor into the impactful interviews and facts he gathered to bring a story to life. His in-depth features leveraged the power of data and community voice to call attention to disparities, drive advocacy and advance change in policy, practice and community norms. In so many ways, Jeff was a Champion for Childrenmuch like the stories he wrote that reflected the work of partners across L.A. County, he was whole-heartedly vested in First 5 LA’s mission to support all young children and their families.  

Colleagues recall his ever-readiness to appreciate the work of others and encourage the writer in us all. With all this wealth of personality, Jeff was also a quiet man as he went about his day. But he was clearly always deep in thought, often navigating the tension between locking down the perfect interview and meeting a looming deadline. In honor of Jeff, we will, individually and collectively, as an organization, carry forward and remember the man who made early childhood issues truly matter. 

 If you wish to learn more about how colleagues are honoring Jeff’s memory through donations, you may reach out to Marlene Fitzsimmons at [email protected]