April 10

By Alexander Zelenyj
Special to The Star

Everybody wants to contribute to the world in positive ways. Some people do so by giving to charities throughout their lives, and benefiting others through their donations.

As they grow older some people start to consider the idea of what might happen to the causes they believe in after they’re gone. But death doesn’t have to be the end of your life’s passion for giving. Here in Windsor, many charitable organizations exist that help good causes flourish long after we’re gone.

One of the best ways to ensure that donations to a worthy organization — such as the Windsor Downtown Mission, Alzheimer’s Society of Windsor & Essex County and Hospice of Windsor & Essex County — continues after you’re gone is to establish a trust. A trust is created when you transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee. This can be either a person or a trust company. They are given instructions on how to use those assets for the benefit of a beneficiary, which is the organization or person who you want to donate to.

There are two basic kinds of trusts. The first, a living trust, is property ownership that’s passed immediately to your beneficiaries during your lifetime. You can add more property to this type of trust over time. Because the transfer of ownership begins during your lifetime, the trust assets don’t form part of your estate.

For those planning ahead, another option is establishing a testamentary trust. This type of trust is created in a person’s will and takes effect upon death, ensuring that donations continue to be given to the organization of choice.

Downtown Mission has been a popular charitable organization for trust donors throughout the years. Ron Dunn, director of development and community relations, stresses the importance of charitable donations in helping keep the organization going.

“Charitable donations along with volunteerism are the things that sustain us,” he says. “Simply put, without both we could not exist.”

The Mission was founded in 1972 and has never received government funding. Its annual budget is funded 100 per cent by the generous people of Windsor-Essex.

“In general I would say that those who choose the Mission as their charity of choice do so out of compassion for the poor,” Dunn explains. “Coupled with the fact that 89 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to those living in poverty, choosing the Mission is a good choice.”

Dunn emphasizes that without these many donors and volunteers thousands of people in Windsor would be left hungry and hurting.

Matthew Durham is the director of community enhancement and engagement at Hospice of Windsor and Essex County Inc., Canada’s first and largest community-based hospice palliative care village. He’s also very grateful for the generosity of its donors.

“The Hospice for Life Foundation was created through the philanthropic vision of the Toldo Family and the O’Neil family who wanted to ensure that Hospice care would be available for generations to come. Each donated $1 million to start the foundation, which holds endowment funds from private and corporate donors, with interest revenues funding programs and services, research, innovation and capital projects at the Hospice.”

Over the past 35 years, their donor list has been extensive. It includes private, corporate and grants funding from a variety of sources, all coming together to ensure that compassionate care is available at no cost in the community. From its founding in 1979, Hospice has relied on the generosity of the Windsor-Essex community to fund programs and services for its patients and families.

“Today, we serve more than 2,000 patients and families per year, with only about 50 per cent government funding,” Durham says with pride.

Donors give money to different charitable organizations for different reasons. According to Durham, donors to the Hospice and the Hospice for Life Foundation usually have a very personal interest and connection to the organization.

“Most often they know someone who has been affected by a life-altering diagnosis. When the Hospice can be there to support their loved one when they need it most, they often want to give back and make sure those services are available to everyone.”

At the Alzheimer’s Society of Windsor-Essex, CEO Sally Bennett Olczak emphasizes the greatly meaningful and helpful nature of donations. “Gifts like these go back into our services, like purchasing items for day programs and educational materials,” she says. “It’s deeply meaningful to accept such a gift.”

Another, more personal reason for trust planning for when we’re no longer around is the sense of fulfillment it gives to donors. They can rest assured knowing that their legacy of giving will go on, and that they will be remembered for contributing to a cause that meant something very important to them.

The Downtown Mission’s Dunn attests to this. “Estate planning, including charitable donations, is a wonderful legacy to leave,” he says. “Many that choose this option have throughout their lives supported the Mission and other organizations, and doing so in death is a natural thing for them to do.”

A donation to the Downtown Mission, he believes, is a kind gesture and a wonderful way to honour a loved one who has passed away.

Durham at Hospice of Windsor agrees that charitable donations are a great way of leaving behind a legacy of helping. “A gift to the Hospice for Life Foundation ensures that all of our friends, neighbours and community members will have access to care whenever they are affected by a life-altering diagnosis. A donation to the Foundation will create a legacy of compassion and empathy that will trickle down through generations to come, making a bold statement about what a donor values and the future they are willing to support for their children, grandchildren and so forth.”

There are a lot of ways to donate to charitable organizations. The choices run the gamut from making a bequest in one’s will, donating life insurance settlements, investments and securities or making gifts of property.

“All donations to Hospice of more than $10 are eligible for tax receipts and could be used to offset estate taxes or even income while the donor is still alive,” Durham adds.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Windsor-Essex also has a long history of charitable donors whose legacy lives on with the organization. Olczak emphasizes the lasting legacies of donors.

“Of course we all want to give to our loved ones, but giving fortune to the greater good of the community is a very special thing.”

Olczak goes on to offer a historical perspective that we can all feel good about. “Research shows that right now, this is the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth from one generation to another, ever.”

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tags: legacy, foundation, hospice for life