Legacy as Much as Impact

Guest Correspondence

Our Gulf Coast family lost a special person last week. But thanks to her generous heart and careful forethought, our community and many of its most vulnerable children gained a guardian angel.

This particular donor lived frugally. She was born of a generation and situation that molded her entire life. Given up for adoption as a child when her parents divorced, she grew up poor, working hard on a foster family’s farm. Those circumstances never left her, even as she forged a good, long life.

Once out on her own, she spent her entire career with a big carmaker in Michigan. She and her life partner enjoyed 60 years together, but they never had children. Because he handled their finances and the two continued to live modestly over their decades together, it was only after he passed that she understood she was indeed a very wealthy woman. But by that time, and true to her nature, she had no desire to spend any of that money on herself.

She did, however, want to help others. Her estate-planning attorney introduced her to Gulf Coast, to share what she wanted to do and learn how we might help. She chose to endow a permanent charitable fund here that supports at-risk children, particularly those in foster care, as well as mentoring programs and food for people in need.

We worked with her attorney and financial advisor to make the arrangements to her liking.

Because our donor created her fund during her lifetime, she was able to see grants made from it over the past few years. It brought her great joy to know she was helping children through some of the very difficult things she had experienced in her own childhood. Her legacy will only grow as her fund does too and continues to invest in programs that open doors to opportunity for children who otherwise might have none.

I often use this column space to share news of important initiatives that Gulf Coast Community Foundation is funding, together with our donors, to transform our region and head off emerging issues. But our work at Gulf Coast is about legacy as much as impact; a sign of respect toward the individual donor’s “family at large,” as well as a summation of her own life’s work and passions.

The donor we just lost is one of hundreds of community members who have created a fund or foundation within Gulf Coast. But she was a singular person, whom we will always remember, and whose generosity our community will forever know through the good work that continues in her good name.

Our job is to meet the generosity of donors like her with appropriate structure to nurture their hopes for future generations. She placed her trust in us, as a permanent part of this community, to ensure that her legacy would bring joy to others. We hold that responsibility as high as any, and we treasure the opportunity to facilitate our donor’s wishes.

Mark Pritchett is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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