Planned giving success stories

Originally published on 10/11’s Pure Nebraska Program

There are a wide variety of examples where planned giving has created opportunities for people in Nebraska City. From the local library to local scholarships, endowment funds are making a difference.

The Morton-James Public Library is a beautiful building in downtown Nebraska City. At the library, you’ll find a great example of how planned giving can have an ongoing positive impact on a community. “It all started with a woman who came in for estate planning with her attorney,” Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund member Doug Friedi said. A woman named Grace Moller made the decision to give a gift in her estate of $500,000 for the Morton-James Public Library. “In the agreement they said, this account shall be endowed. In other words, only the earnings from it will be spent each year. The principal will remain forever,” Friedli said.

That gift was made in 2001. “Fast forward 21 years to 2022,” Friedli said. “That fund is now valued at $1,150,000. It’s doubled in value, and the grants made from it exceed $500,000.”

The funds from Grace Moller’s planned gift are being used in exciting ways at the library today. One use is for the Dolly Parton imagination library. “Her organization sends books out to newborns, all the way out to age five every month, free of charge,” Library Director Donna Kruse said. Money is also used for large exhibits in the Kimmel Gallery downstairs, and it’s used for database access. “This goes above and beyond what the state provides the library,” Kruse said. “You can come in and use Ancestry Library Edition, or learn a new language, NewsBank and Heritage Quest have all sorts of historic newspapers as well as current newspapers.”

The concept of planned giving actually has a long history in Nebraska City. Joy Morton, the son of Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton, and Vantine James, a former city attorney, created endowments through their estates to sustain the work of the library. “The Vantine James endowment is used for the ‘above and beyond’ category, as well as physical building projects,” Kruse said. “As for the Joy Morton endowment, he left his instructions to be used for books.”

But there’s more. Thanks to local gifts to the Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund, that fund is able to support the “One Book, One Community” campaign.

“This year the book is “Masterpiece” by Elise Broach,” Morton-James Library Youth Services Manager Amanda Winkler said. It turns out, more than 450 kids are given this book for free through the program. It’s a book they can keep. “We are really grateful the Nebraska City Community Foundation has funded that every family gets a book,” Winkler said. “Studies have shown that having books physically in the home is one of the most important things in encouraging children to be engaged with reading.”

Thanks to the foundation’s unrestricted endowment, more good work is being done. Advisory committee members have handed out thousands of dollars in scholarships to non-traditional students through this fund. “Our mission is to invest in people,” Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund member Sharon Hersemann said. 79 scholarships have been awarded in the last 20 years. “We have touched just about every facet of Nebraska City with these scholarships. We’ve had people go to welding school, who have gotten some law enforcement special training, and who have gotten bachelor’s degrees.”

The earnings from the community foundation unrestricted endowment fund make these scholarships possible. It’s the earnings off of endowments like the one set up by Grace Moller in 2001, that continue to help the library. Those connected to the Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund are now making their own planned gifts. “We now have 20 gifts from former and current FAC members, back to the Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund endowment,” Friedli said. Experts are encouraging others across the state to consider making their own estate gift to a local endowment fund, so that money can have a lasting impact like it has in Nebraska City.

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