Donors Leave a Legacy Through Their Estate Plans

ECCF: 20 Years: celebrating our past ~ inspiring our future.  This is the 13th in a series of articles on the Elk County Community Foundation (ECCF) during its 20th anniversary year, highlighting its history and impact in the community

Donors Leave a Legacy Through Their Estate Plans

ST. MARYS: Taking care of their family is usually the first priority when people think about estate planning. After that, they look to the things that are important in their lives, such as a charity that has touched their lives in a meaningful way, loyalty to a school that helped them succeed, or a worthy organization they strongly believe in. The Elk County Community Foundation (ECCF) strives to help individuals who care about this community to fulfill their charitable wishes by leaving a lasting legacy.

A number of area residents have left their legacy by incorporating a portion of their estate into a fund established in their name at the Foundation. Funds like those established through the estates of Sara-Jane Stackpole, Tom and Mary Rita Valentine, Harold and Midge Fritz Lenze, Gloria and Jim Straub, and Frank and Josephine Sicheri, are still making a difference in the communities they loved.

Sara-Jane Stackpole was an avid supporter of her community and an on-going contributor to the Foundation who left a lasting gift to her friends and neighbors by establishing two funds as part of her estate plan: The Ridgway Volunteer Fire Department Fund and The Ridgway Borough Charitable Fund. These funds have provided many thousands of dollars in grants to support projects and non-profit organizations in the Ridgway area. The Sara-Jane Stackpole Legacy Society at ECCF was named after Sara-Jane in 2007 in appreciation for her deep commitment to philanthropy and to honor her memory.

In 2013, Tom and Mary Rita Valentine included the creation of a charitable fund in their estate plans. Their fund supports Catholic education at Elk County Catholic School System through scholarships and funding for general operational needs. Northwest Saving Bank (NSB), as well as local attorney Tom Wagner, played a large role in giving guidance to the couple as they completed their charitable plans. NSB representatives described Tom and Rita as “a very loving, sweet couple that lived for each other and their faith. The couple believed that by supporting Catholic education they could share their faith with the next generation. We honor their belief in Catholic education by administering this fund exactly how they wished.”

Harold C. Lenze was a longtime supporter of Catholic education in our community. Throughout Harold’s lifetime he and his wife Marguerite “Midge” would contribute to the education of many students in the area attending local Catholic schools. Provisions were made by Harold in his estate plans to establish a fund for the purpose of supporting Catholic education after his death. Upon Mr. Lenze’s passing the “Harold C. and Marguerite M. Lenze Tuition Assistance Fund for the St. Marys Catholic Elementary and Middle Schools” was created. The fund will provide tuition assistance for generations to come.

Gloria Straub left her imprint on the community she loved when she passed away in May of 2018. Her husband, Jim, preceded her in death in 2002. As part of her estate plan, Gloria provided for the establishment of three separate funds with ECCF. The James & Gloria Straub Benedictine Sister Fund provides for the special needs of the Benedictine Sisters who formerly resided at the St. Joseph Monastery in St. Marys. The James & Gloria Straub Memorial Fund will provide charitable funds to non-profit organizations recommended by the designated advisors for the fund. The James & Gloria Straub Pinecrest Manor Activities Fund will support the activities of the local nursing home where Gloria spent so many hours as a volunteer.

In 2017 ECCF received a large estate gift from the Zita Sicheri Estate. Jake Meyer and Brad Kraus of Meyer, Wagner, Brown and Krause Law firm helped to administer the estate. Zita donated a good portion of her assets to the Foundation to establish the Frank and Josephine Sicheri Family Fund in honor of her parents. The Fund will be for the sole purpose of support to the St. Boniface Catholic Church and School in her community. Her and her sisters’ years of labor and frugality will reap abundant benefits for the St. Boniface parish family whose lives will be touched by her generosity.

The Elk County Community Foundation has been helping individuals and families realize their charitable goals for over 20 years. Through the Foundation, donors can create funds to support causes they care about. It’s like having your own private foundation – but a lot easier. Funds can be started with just a minimal donation. Most can be set up in just one meeting, and your gifts are tax deductible. ECCF provides the administrative and investment management services that make it easy for donors to accomplish their charitable wishes. For more information, visit ECCF’s website at or call the office at 834.2125.

Photo: Sara-Jane Stackpole, Mary Rita & Tom Valentine, Harold & Midge Fritz Lenze, Gloria & Jim Straub.  Local residents left a legacy by establishing a fund at the Community Foundation which ensure their wishes will continue beyond their lifetime. Their funds recognize and support the charitable organizations and philanthropic causes that made an impact on their lives.