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Jefferson Award winner, April 2019: Steve Jacobson

MADISON (WKOW) — Steve Jacobson was born and raised in Wisconsin and it’s that giving spirit he gained here that he’s now spreading around the country.

“I was very fortunate to grow up in a great community with a lot of nice people.”

Steve spent his childhood in Pardeeville.

“We all know there’s a principle in life, it’s givers gain and we’re here to help other people,” he says.

He took that mentality to college at UW-Madison, where he became co-captain of the Badgers basketball team.

“He’s a transformational leader and just gets people to think differently,” says friend Dave Shaw.

After college, Steve started Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation and after 23 years, it’s now top five in the country for home mortgages, with nearly 7,000 employees.
“He carries himself with such humility and such graciousness and a giving back spirit,” says Shaw.

Steve’s biggest push to give back came after his dad got sick.

Steve recalls, “He had an operation Christmas day of ’96 that didn’t go well and 26 months later he passed.”

After going through that experience, Steve founded Fairway Cares ( , a charitable arm of his company.

“When you’ve lost something really important to you, that just hits your heart, that you can’t even explain it to people, you know that it’s not the money, but it’s the little things that make all the difference in the world.”

Through employee referrals, Fairway provides care packages or financial assistance to those facing critical illness, who’ve lost a loved one, or who’ve sustained physical trauma.

Each package is customized to what the person is going through, filled with books, blankets, bath products, stuffed animals for kids, hundreds of dollars worth of products that bring comfort.

Those gifts are made possible by employee donations.

Shaw knows the power of the packages. His wife received one after she was diagnosed with cancer.

“When you see people come out of nowhere that you hardly know, that my wife didn’t know, that care, all of a sudden it starts to build hope and it builds perspective to be able to move forward in a very positive way. And eventually it leads to gratefulness and thankfulness that you have those people in your life and they’re able to help you move forward, heal and get better.”

More than a thousand care packages have been given out around the country over the past couple of years and more than $500,000 in grants.

“That’s the whole premise of this company,” says Steve. “We give and help people.”

They also help families overcome loss by giving them time away at the Hidden Beauty Retreat. It’s a 13,000 square foot log home on 250 acres in Spring Green.

Fairway also supports two other nonprofits, the Fairway Foundation strictly helps employees and the American Warrior Initiative donates services dogs, cars and grants to deserving veterans.

“It’s all about making a difference in communities and making a difference in somebody’s heart, because that’s where it’s all at,” says Steve.

If you would like to be part of the mission of Fairway Care, they are hosting a golf outing in May called Putting for Packages to raise money.

Amber Noggle

Anchor, 27 News at 5, 6 and 10

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