After 15 years of dedicated work at United Way East Ontario, Carole Gagnon decided it was time for retirement. She worked many years supporting our communities’ most vulnerable people as the Vice President of Community Impact, transitioning to Vice President of Resource Development in the latter part of her career.
When she retired, Carole knew she wanted to continue to support her community. She also knew that leaving a gift in her will was the best way to continue supporting the issues she cares about most. We spoke with Carole about why she chose to leave a legacy gift.
Why is charitable giving a priority in your life?
Charitable giving has always been a part of my life. Throughout my upbringing, my parents instilled values that were all about giving back to our community. I grew up in Timmins, Ontario, and although my family didn’t have much, I remember my mother making meals for others and sharing with families less fortunate than ours. I was always aware of the vulnerable people around me and I did what I could to help.
I’m grateful that for most of my life, I’ve been in a position to provide support to others. But we all know that while we may be comfortable and healthy today, our realities could change tomorrow—for a lot of different reasons. When it came to updating my will, I wanted to make sure that I continued to give. The most natural thing for me to do was to continue to align my giving with an organization with whom I have the most shared values—taking care of the most vulnerable and investing dollars where they are needed the most.
Why is leaving a gift to your community something that’s important to you?
Why United Way? The health and well-being of seniors is an issue that has always interested me. Long before I joined United Way, I was connected to seniors through volunteerism and by serving on boards of organizations that work to address their needs. United Way has supported seniors since the very beginning, and so I’ve chosen to leave a legacy gift that will continue to support this population. I know their needs will change and evolve, and I trust United Way to determine how my donation will have the greatest impact as time goes on.
Throughout my 15 years at the organization, I saw the care that volunteers and staff took in understanding their communities to make decisions that would have the best results—it’s something I truly respect.
What would you tell someone who is looking to include a charitable gift in their will?
Writing a will is tough for anybody. It involves a lot of difficult conversations and planning. Naturally, the first thing on our minds is making sure our families and loved ones are taken care of. In addition to supporting those close to you, if you are able to, consider leaving a charitable gift to an organization that you trust and understand.
My career in the non-profit sector has shown me that legacy gifts truly make a difference. I know that the gift that I’m leaving will allow the organization to do what they do best—be flexible, nimble, and able to respond rapidly to emerging needs, or fund areas they otherwise couldn’t.
Oftentimes, legacy gifts allow United Way to respond in a crisis. Does COVID-19 get you thinking about that?
I commend United Way for being responsive to emergency situations. There is a need for an organization that is focused on supporting the most vulnerable—it’s important that in times like these, they are committed to continuing that mission. This pandemic, if anything, reinforces my choice. If we look at how challenges are magnified during crisis situations, we can see just how much our continued support is needed. It’s our responsibility as a community to help ensure that the proper supports are in place to maintain the health and well-being of our most vulnerable people. Legacy gifts and United Way can make sure that these groups don’t fall through the cracks. I trust United Way to understand the needs of their communities. Whether they are supporting local people by directing legacy gifts to where they’re needed most during a crisis, or advocating to government groups for increased support, I know that United Way is taking the best steps towards helping those who depend on them.