Gifting land to assist community

When Sam Walton showed up at Aileen Leasure’s doorstep in Muskingum County, Ohio, offering to buy the 75-acre Leasure Family Farm, the superstore tycoon didn’t get what he came for that day.

Mrs. Leasure is legendary in her county for asking Walton to leave her living room and flatly refusing a portion of the Wal-Mart fortune in exchange for a piece of her land. She is also legendary in her neck of the woods for her generosity and the impact her philanthropy has had on the community in and around Zanesville.

It was simple for Mrs. Leasure, said Brian Wagner of the Muskingum County Community Foundation. She didn’t want her farmland to be used for a flat-roofed building surrounded by acres of asphalt, she said. Instead, she decided to share her wealth with the greater community by donating part of the Leasure farm to the Muskingum County Community Foundation.

Today, more and more property owners understand that almost any type of real property — a personal residence, farm, vacation home, commercial building, or an undeveloped parcel of land — can be gifted for charitable purposes.

Mrs. Leasure had clear ideas of what should be done with the farmland that had been in her husband’s family for generations. Although she and her husband, Charles, didn’t have children, she wanted the farm to be used for people to live on and enjoy as she had enjoyed it for 70 years of her life. The Charles S. and Aileen Leasure Endowment was a result and an impetus for perpetual giving.

The Charles S. and Aileen Leasure Endowment fund at the Muskingum County Community Foundation was established to benefit Grover Cleveland Middle School, MCCF Leasure Family Scholarships, Grace United Methodist Church, Bethesda Senior League, MATC Foundation, and the MCCF General Fund.

Oftentimes, gifting property can have a greater benefit than giving cash. Respecting Mrs. Leasure’s desires, the community foundation sold a portion of the land for the construction of an assisted living center. Although she continued to live on her own in her nearby family farmhouse, she was glad to have the option of remaining on her land in the event that she was unable to care for herself.

She further specified that she wished for the greatest share of the profits from the sale of the land to go into a scholarship fund. For the remainder, she designated money for a local hospital, her church, and a portion to the community foundation for operating expenses.

Mrs. Leasure loved to see the impact of her philanthropy in action. She watched as the buildings were constructed, and she continued to be an active philanthropist for the rest of her life. She passed away in 1999, but her legacy will continue for future generations — and the community that nourished the past Leasure generations will continue to benefit, thanks to her generous donations.

You, too, can make a similar impact on our community, your church and other favored charities with a gift of farmland or other property. Proceeds from the sale or lease of such gifts could perpetuate your family’s name and support for generations to come.

To learn more about gifts of real estate, contact the Community Foundation of Jackson County at 812-523-4483.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. The foundation administers more than 200 funds with assets of more than $11 million. For information about how you can make a donation to any of the funds administered by the foundation or how you might start a new fund, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to Dan Davis at [email protected].