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Spotlight on Generosity: The Hartzogs

By Stephanie Burke, ELCA Foundation

With just a little over a year under my belt as the ELCA Foundation’s Regional Gift Planner for the Carolinas, a frou frou title which means I help people with legacy giving, I have so far found planned estate gifts generally fall into one of three categories:  those that make you smile, those that make you cheer, and those that drop you to your knees.  With the last in mind, allow me to introduce you to Mike and Rita.  A South Carolina couple, devoted to their church, and blessed with one grown, special-needs son.  They had a seriously solid Legacy Plan already in place, the kind that makes any Regional Gift Planner proud.  It ensured their son would be taken care of for the rest of his life and that planned gifts, generous gifts, would go to their favorite ministries after their lifetime.  But these are staunchly faithful people who do not rest on their laurels, and though both are in their mid-seventies, they wanted to do even more.  Mike’s words were, “We have been very blessed in this lifetime, and we want to carry that blessing into the future for God’s sake as best we can.”

Covid tried to put a kabash on our work together, but after incredible conversations about their charitable goals and current assets (God bless Zoom), we were able to craft a plan that not only strengthened the financial security for their son but enabled them to increase their charitable giving  – by almost a million dollars

“We are blown away this amount is even a possibility for us,” Mike said.  “Never in a million years did we think we’d be able to leave this kind of impact.  We are having the best conversations of our lives brainstorming where all the money can go!”

This couple gets it.  In a year where good news was scarce and division often felt the norm, they found sustained joy through prayerful generosity and kindness.  Their very faces make me smile, their impact makes me cheer, and their example brings me to my knees.

And from that bowed position I whisper, “Thanks be to God.”

As the ELCA Foundation’s Regional Gift Planner for the Carolinas, Stephanie meets with congregations and individuals from across North and South Carolina for two purposes:  to help churches grow their Culture of Generosity and to assist members in crafting a Legacy Plan that supports their loved ones AND tells their faith story far into the future.  Born and raised as a Lutheran in the Carolinas, she has spent more than 30 years serving the ELCA at congregational, synodical and national levels.  Supported by the SC and NC Synods and affiliated partners, her services are available at absolutely no obligation.  Contact her at Stephanie.Burke@elca.org or 704-293-9436. 

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