George T. Walker

George Walker lived a humble life in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  He was very generous, and he was especially careful to support organizations doing so much for their communities without asking for reimbursement or charging fees.  He liked to help those who helped others, and he was particularly interested in relieving human suffering.

George wished to continue this legacy of ‘helping those who help others’ after his lifetime.  He sought guidance from his financial advisor and estate planning attorney on how to incorporate his charitable wishes into his estate plans.  George’s legacy gifts resulting from his considerable estate had the potential for significant impact.  His professional advisors recommended a charitable fund at the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation as a way to give to organizations in his absence. 

ON HIS ESTATE PLANNING

With no direct descendants and a generous heart, George’s estate planning focused on continuing support to seven organizations to which he felt connected and which spanned the spectrum of his charitable interests.  Those organizations included several from his local neighborhood, such as the American Red Cross of the Poconos, Effort United Methodist Church, Mount Pocono United Methodist Church, and Salvation Army of East Stroudsburg.  They also include three organizations from beyond, specifically Deborah Heart & Lung Center in New Jersey, Guiding Eyes for the Blind in New York, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee. 

George desired to support the named nonprofits with more than just one gift at the time of his death.  He wished for his estate to continually give in his name, forever, and he wanted to be sure that the recipients used these gifts in an effective way.  Through his will, George established a permanent, designated fund at the Community Foundation to support these seven named organizations, in perpetuity and with the oversight of Community Foundation staff. 

ON WORKING WITH PROFESSIONAL ADVISORS

With strong endorsement from his professional advisors, the Community Foundation helped George establish his charitable legacy by creating a vehicle for him to annually give to his most important charitable interests.  In this endowment fund George’s legacy can also grow through smart, prudent investing by a professional investment manager and oversight from the Community Foundation.

Helping George with his estate planning was David Osborn of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Attorney Judith Harris of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, P.A.  As David puts it, “For professional advisors, working with the Community Foundation is a great case study in team work and ‘trust’ work.  The Foundation is there to support the community, the donors, and the professionals who advise them.” 

Judith agrees, saying, “The Community Foundation is a tremendous resource in the Lehigh Valley, and beyond.  For me, it provides simple and effective solutions for clients with charitable goals.  A significant percentage of my clients include charitable gifts in their planned giving, and these are not all necessarily wealthy people.  They can benefit greatly by being shown possible options and how easy the Community Foundation makes it for them to fulfil their wishes.” 

ON HIS LASTING LEGACY

George appreciated that community needs are constantly changing, and he couldn’t predict where his gift would be most impactful in 10, 25, or 50 years.  With this vision he gave discretion to the Community Foundation on how much to grant to the seven named organizations and to which program

Today, the staff and Board of Governors of the Community Foundation work with the nonprofits on an annual basis to determine the specific programs that will most benefit from the grants and how much is needed to support these programs.  The Community Foundation has built a trusted partnership with these important community organizations so George T. Walker’s legacy of ‘helping those who help others’ continues for generations to come.   

Grants from the Fund Have Included:

1.)  St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – Proton Therapy Center & Preparation Room:  Proton Beam Therapy is the most advanced form of radiation technology today allowing doctors to precisely target cancerous cells with high doses of radiation while sparing nearby healthy cells.  Proton Beam Therapy offers great benefits for children with brain tumors and other cancers treated with radiation therapy because it reduces harm to the child’s developing body and lessens the risk of secondary tumors.  St. Jude’s Proton Therapy Center is the first in the world dedicated solely to children and designed to meet the needs of young patients.

2.) Guiding Eyes for the Blind – Pennsylvania Challenge Grant:  This innovative grant approach was a dollar-for-dollar challenge for Guiding Eyes for the Blind to leverage the grant from the George T. Walker Charitable Fund to raise additional support from other donors across Pennsylvania.  The money raised would be allocated to program expenses and services provided to students and graduates in Pennsylvania.  At the conclusion of the ‘challenge period’ the grant was fully matched.  The Challenge Grant attracted new sources of funds and stimulated higher levels and more frequent gifts from current supporters of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. 

We can see how these funds impact those with vision loss here in the Lehigh Valley.  For Bethlehem resident Elaine Mara, her Guiding Eyes dog has provided her with a sense of true companionship and safety.  Elaine made the decision to come to Guiding Eyes after witnessing first-hand the impact guide dogs made in the life of her peers.  “Having a guide dog has given me the ability to experience the world as a person who happens to be blind.  He allows me to be normal.”

3.) Salvation Army of East Stroudsburg – Emergency Shelters:  Grants have supported an important shelter facility for up to 12 single men and 8 single women, a separate unit for single mother and child, and townhouse family shelters for multiple families.  In the aggregate, the Salvation Army provides approximately 7,000 ‘nights of shelter’ each year.