Home > Blog > A Tribute to Elliot Steinbach
By Tara Blake, Marketing Communications Officer

It is with deep sadness that Project Open Hand announces the passing of Elliot Steinbach on May 26, 2017.

Elliot served as Volunteer Services Coordinator at Project Open Hand from October, 2015 to May, 2017. During his time here, he’d proven himself indispensable as a colleague, and irreplaceable as a friend. Elliot scheduled approximately 1,200 one-time volunteer groups and approximately 500 group orientations. He was a Salesforce guru and was his team's go-to for any data related questions. He supported and encouraged countless volunteers and brought energy and heart to every obstacle he pursued.

Laura Fisher, Elliot’s manager, reflects on her first encounter with Elliot.

“I remember seeing Elliot in the lobby while I walked by on my way to his interview. He wore a suit and I remember thinking he was so overdressed for the role. We had to squeeze seven people in a very small conference room and it was so awkward, but I remember laughing a ton during that interview and knowing that he was the one I wanted to hire for the position.”

Elliot was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia by his parents, Dr. Alan Steinbach and Fern Steinbach, along with his siblings, Jena Wolfe, Jesse Steinbach and Chea Steinbach.

Dr. Alan Steinbach recalls his son's memory fondly, but speaks on one character trait in particular.

“Elliot did everything in life slowly. He woke up slowly, walked slowly as a duck…slowly traveled to South America, Spain, India, Israel, Prague, and Poland. He slowly finished college and slowly, deeply, passionately explored, in the true spirit of the philosophy major he was, how best to live a life of meaning by working for the betterment of others –– by doing Tikkun Olam and healing the brokenness in the world, and by working for AmeriCorps and Project Open Hand in San Francisco.”

In addition to doing things slowly, Elliot’s father mentions that Elliot did things as he wanted to, disregarding the expectations of onlookers.

“I recall a fourth grade big-bellied boy who swam with the most perfect form. He could swim endlessly, effortlessly, enjoying the beauty of every stroke. He was beautiful to watch, but oh so slow. But there he was, a member of the YMCA swim team, clothed in a bikini speedo racing suit. Elliot swam, looks be damned. The race concluded, but before the next heat began, we all had to wait patiently for Elliot to complete his laps. Elliot got out of the pool, found my gaze in the stands and gave me a triumphant, defiant smile. Pure Elliot.”

Growing up, Elliot was known as the class clown, always doing silly things like locking a teacher out of the classroom and pulling up his shirt to press his chest against a car window. But as he got older, he started “coming into his own,” as his brother, Jesse says.

“He started reading a lot of books, getting into philosophy, and would recite quotes from Greek philosophers or some esoteric Tibetan monk, and just completely developed this other side of himself.”

Elliot was free-spirited, and naturally optimistic. He is best remembered for effortless sincerity, concern for others, and the fact that no one in the office can say they’ve ever seen Elliot angry.  Elliot had plans to return to college in the fall to obtain a Masters in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania.

Elliot found belonging at Project Open Hand, and our team found belonging in his comradery. He has filled so many people with memories. Memories, now, that seem well worth their weight in forever.

Rest easy, Elliot Steinbach. You’re remembered fondly. 


  • JENA, ELLIOT'S SISTER: My brother Elliot was one of the warmest, loudest, kindest, most lovable people I know. He was equal parts life of the party and soul-searching philosopher. What I mean by this is that he knew how to have fun. He loved to laugh and make other people laugh. He was often the center of attention, in the very best way, with an energy and lightness that was contagious. But he was also soulful, introspective, always looking for meaning.
  • JESSE, ELLIOT'S BROTHER: We grew up sharing a bedroom. I’m happy for the 10 years of watching the flicker of his computer screen before I fell asleep, hearing him yell at dad when he'd try to wake him up, dreaming near him. Where do his dreams go now? I wish I could have collected them like lightning bugs. Saved them in a glass jar. Maybe share one with each person, or release them into the sky all at once, or give them to a baby — one day mine or my sister’s.
  • DAVE, VOLUNTEER: You know, he had soulful eyes. His smile was very engaging –– wasn’t a broad smile, wasn’t trimmed or restrained, but his face just kind of lit up in an understated, soulful way.
  • LAURA, VOLUNTEER SERVICES MANAGER: I’ll remember the words “Just breathe.”  He told me that a lot when I got stressed out or flustered.
  • TARA, MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER: I think Elliot would have given anything away. His talent, time, joy. I’ll always remember him as a painter of altruism… just smearing goodwill everywhere he goes.
  • MICHAEL, GROCERY SERVICES OPERATIONS MANAGER: I started as a volunteer, and Elliot is the person that told me what I would be doing. He was so happy and seemed to love his job. It made me admire that a person could love what he does that much. But Elliot was always able to be happy –– he was a person that didn’t let negativity in life drag him down. He found the good in the day, even if he were in a bad place. He wouldn’t live in it.”

Shiva will be observed Sunday to Wednesday at the home of Dr. Alan Steinbach. As suggested by his family, contributions in Elliot’s memory may be made to Project Open hand, 730 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 ( PH# 415-447-2419).

Photos by Elle Garner, except for bottom right photo, by Trevor Henley / Desire to Inspire Photography


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