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Ensuring growth forever

Two donations mean local organizations will benefit in perpetuity

By Ben Rodgers

GREEN BAY – The two biggest gifts in the history of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation will keep on giving long after anyone reading this is gone.

A gift of $16.5 million from the Heim estate is the largest endowed gift the foundation has ever received.

That, coupled with a $5 million donation, the largest unrestricted gift, mean a lifetime of additional support for area nonprofit organizations.

Pauline and Ron Heim. Submitted Photo

“One of the things everyday working on the Community Foundation we get to see such a diverse array of generosity, if you will, in how people want to impact the community,” said Dennis Buehler, GGBCF president/CEO. “These two gifts are certainly reflective of that.”

The $16.5 million gift from Ronald and Pauline Heim is set up as an endowment fund, Buehler said.

Because of that, he said 30 different non-profit organizations will receive money from the interest in perpetuity.

“I’m glad that she’s able to make that impact,” said Pat Moore, Pauline’s niece from West Allis. “Because after she was born in the Sturgeon Bay area, she spent her whole life in Green Bay. I’m glad it’s staying in the community.”

Ron passed away in 1992 and Pauline in January of 2018.

“Ron’s been gone a long time, and I know that I don’t recall necessarily when he was alive them making a lot of donations, so they may have, but Pauline had many charities she contributed to as she got older,” Moore said. “I don’t think anybody in the family, and I was probably the closest as they didn’t have any of their own children, thought that she had the kind of wealth that she had. But we knew her to contribute to various charities.”

The $16.5 million will be invested and 30 different organizations Pauline selected will receive a percentage of that interest forever.

“It really gives them an opportunity to plan for annual funds being received forever,” said Therese Woelfel, GGBCF vice president of donor engagement. “This gift will go on way beyond our lifetimes and they’ll have the opportunity to think creatively about some of the emerging needs in the community.”

Throughout their lives, the two gave generously to local organizations in the community, Woelfel said.

“That represents a donor who really knew specifically what her passion was, what they’re about and how they want to contribute,” Buehler said.

Some areas the Heims supported include animal welfare, higher education and food pantries.

“A legacy of this size will positively change lives. In the case of HEA (Happily Ever After), it will be changing the lives of dogs, cats, and the people whose lives are touched by companion animals,” said Marcus Reitz, branding and development director for Happily Ever After Animal Sanctuary. “This will transform HEA’s work this year, next year, and every year that our work is needed by the companion animal welfare community. The impact of this extremely generous gift on the mission of HEA will compound indefinitely. Similarly, HEA will be forever grateful.”

Another organization that will benefit is the Green Bay Botanical Garden.

With 47 acres and various buildings and gardens to maintain, the donation will help ensure stability long into the future, said Susan Garot, executive director.

“What a wonderful legacy to be able to leave to our community,” Garot said. “What a wonderful surprise. It’s people like that who worked hard all of their life from my understanding and probably lived a modest lifestyle to be able to give a gift like this to the community.”

Close to 30 years ago, Garot shared a meal with Pauline and Ronald, and said they were salt-of-the-earth people.

“I found them to be very down-to-earth, very unassuming,” she said. “I had no idea they were wealthy. They certainly acted as normal as anyone I’ve ever met. I thought they were delightful people and really caring individuals.”

The interest from the Heim’s donation will equate to roughly $800,000 a year divided among the 30 nonprofits.

“We have such respect of these organizations,” Buehler said. “Every single day they’re on the front line of addressing critical needs with small staff, very thin budgets, robust volunteer corps, the idea of having something that’s known and just maybe something small lessens the fight they’re going through to try and find those next dollars to provide those services that are important to this community, we understand the relief that can bring.”

The $5 million gift was made by an anonymous donor.

That will be put in a trust which will allow the GGBCF the ability to adapt support to organizations as time moves forward.

“Our goal and intent is to make sure we get dollars out to organizations that are seeking support,” Buehler said.

Each year the GGBCF gives grants to more than 500 charitable initiatives and the $5 million donation will raise the total given from $230,000 to nearly $400,000, Buehler said.

“Nonprofits in the community are working so hard every day to address the needs of this community, and when donors take that priority to support them and to say ‘You’re the experts in this area, you’re doing the hard work on the ground floor, we want to do what we can to help you do that,’ it’s conveying their trust in their ability and providing that support,” said Amber Paluch, GGBCF vice president of community engagement.

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