Outstanding Philanthropist Still Giving at 105 Years Old!
I recently attended the 39th Indiana Philanthropy Awards Celebration luncheon sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Indiana Chapter. This chapter has more than 300 members. AFP Indiana is a network of professional fundraisers and service providers, all working on behalf of important nonprofit causes in the community. It is part of the AFP national organization consisting of 240 chapters and 30,000 members worldwide. AFP individual and organizational members raise more than $115 billion dollars annually.
Programs provided include professional development, best practice education and networking. Following the AFP Code of Ethical Standards, AFP Indiana members collaborate with individuals, foundations, corporations, associations and organizations to secure philanthropic investments in our communities to solve critical issues facing society. I am a previous president and board member of this organization. I also previously received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award from this group.
At this luncheon, I was there to see a special long-time donor of The Salvation Army Indiana Division receive the Outstanding Philanthropist award. The recipient is 105-year-old Laura Lewis. Because of her age and health, she could not be present to attend, but Jo Ann Remender, the nonprofit's director for development and her close friend, received the award in her place.
Laura has been supporting The Salvation Army Indiana Division since 1996. She is very enthusiastic about helping children and families in need. Her late husband, Albert, shared a similar caring for those in demanding situations. They did not have children but spent the 25 years giving funds to help hundreds of children in Central Indiana. She lost both of her parents when she was young. Sadly, she was placed in a group home for orphaned children. Because of her hard life experiences growing up, no one was more determined to become a philanthropist to make others happy.
Her first job after graduation was a housekeeper for room and board plus $3 a week. In 1943, she began working for Eli Lilly and Company as a receptionist until her retirement in 1970. Her husband had a lengthy career with the U.S. Postal Service. They both worked hard and lived a modest lifestyle. In 1952, Laura bought her first share of stock in Eli Lilly and Company as a hunch that it might be a worthwhile investment. She and Albert saved wisely through the years as their wealth grew, a dollar at a time. They worked hard to build a life for themselves.
Because of her love for The Salvation Army, she began volunteering and, later, donated funds for the renovation of The Salvation Army Fountain Square Corps Community Center in Indianapolis. She also provided funds to create an endowment for operations. She provided thousands of children with new back-to-school shoes, socks, backpacks and school supplies. She also provided resources to give senior citizens warm winter boots and shoes.
The reason for her interest in providing shoes to needy children was simple. She never had a new pair of shoes as a child. She decided that she wanted to empower children to be successful as they entered a new school year. Laura felt having new shoes and school supplies was important for the children’s self- esteem and preparation for life. Buying hundreds of pairs of new shoes became a way of life for Laura, who continues this practice present day.
Several years ago, she made a multimillion-dollar estate gift to The Salvation Army to renovate an aging facility. This month, she made a significant stock gift to The Salvation Army’s Inspiring Hope Capital Campaign that will be used to renovate The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center. Her giving at age 105 continues. When asked why she is giving everything she and Albert owned to nonprofits, she said that when she gave from the heart, the Lord always doubled her financial return plus doubled the joy in her heart.
I salute Laura Lewis and hundreds of senior donors like her who continue to give throughout their lives with the hope their financial support will have influence and set an example for others. She never asked for anything in return except a smile and "thank you." The definition of philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed by the generous donation of money to worthy causes.
Who do you know who is at least 105 years old, like Laura Lewis, and continues to joyfully give to meet community needs? While she says growing old is not for sissies, she continues to live life on her terms. The world is a better place because Laura and Albert Lewis made a life through demanding work and generous philanthropy, impacting the lives of hundreds of those in greatest need.
As the late Winston Churchill, British statesman, once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy.