The opportunity to leave behind a lasting impression on the world after we’re gone makes for a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
Mary Louise Leake gets this sensation. As current foundation board chair for Blue Ridge Community College and a longtime volunteer for other organizations, the Waynesboro resident has always enjoyed giving back to her community. Leake says she is also motivated to do so because she has no children and few family members.
When she established a will and trust several years ago, an important question was how she could give back when she was gone. For her, the perfect answer was to make the RMH Foundation, the fundraising arm of Sentara RMH Medical Center, the largest beneficiary of her estate.
“It isn’t pleasant to think of your own death, but it’s inevitable,” Leake says. “I have enjoyed a healthy, fulfilling life and want to help impart those qualities when my life is over. You want your gift to make a difference and have meaning. It always makes you feel good to be able to help someone else.”
Leake currently serves as a member of the RMH Foundation Board, her latest foray into volunteerism after a career in education at Stuarts Draft High School and working at Hollister Inc., a healthcare product manufacturer in Stuarts Draft. Born in Clifton Forge, Va., and moving with her family to Harrisonburg at age 6, then-Rockingham Memorial Hospital was her hometown medical facility.
Leake’s parents both died at RMH—her mother at age 47 and her father at 91. She says they both received “excellent care” from the hospital, which would later prompt her to donate $100 to the RMH Foundation, earmarked toward hospice in appreciation for the services her father had received.
That simple act sparked a domino effect that has benefited, and will surely continue to benefit, an untold number of lives. A few days after Leake made her donation, Cory Davies, executive director of the Foundation, called her to thank her for her contribution and to invite her to consider further involvement in the organization.
“He didn’t know me from Adam,” Leake says. “For someone to call and thank me, that was really special to me.”
That initial involvement has turned into “many rewarding twists and turns,” she adds.
Since then, Leake has fundraised for the opening of the Funkhouser Women’s Center and served on the linear accelerator campaign committee to bring an advanced piece of cancer-treatment equipment to the Hahn Cancer Center. She also provides a nursing scholarship and currently sits on the Legacy Leadership Council, a group that encourages legacy giving.
Leake’s biggest gift of all, however, is yet to come.
“Walking the Talk”
For anyone considering the RMH Foundation as part of his or her estate planning, Leake emphasizes that no gift is too small, noting that it’s the act of giving—not the value of the gift—that matters.
“Believe me, a philanthropist or legacy giver does not have to be wealthy,” she says. “Those of us who care deeply for our community—and the amazing, state-of-the-art medical care Sentara RMH provides—can join our gifts together. You don’t need to be a millionaire to do it.”
Leake’s belief in the people who work at Sentara RMH gives her confidence that her gift will be used properly. The advancements the hospital has made since its origins near downtown Harrisonburg—including the implementation of a robotic pharmacy that guarantees the timeliness and accuracy of medications distributed to patients—truly impress her.
Leake says she has never once been asked to give money to the RMH Foundation. Instead, people like Davies have cared more about developing a relationship with her.
“That made me want to give,” Leake says. “At Sentara RMH, they ‘walk the talk.’ I believe in the philosophy and mission of the hospital and have no fear that it will diminish in the future. That’s why I’m leaving my gift unrestricted, knowing it will be used where it is needed most.
“It’s all about relationships, and my connection with Sentara RMH and the RMH Foundation is very special,” she adds. “Sentara RMH is still my hospital, and it will be for many years to come.”
The Value of Legacy Giving
Do you want to make an important difference after you’ve lived a full, productive life? The RMH Foundation invites community members to participate in its Legacy Giving program, which encourages donors to make gifts through their estates.
The hospital started because of a generous bequest left more than 100 years ago by William Glodomore Leake, a distant relative of Mary Louise Leake, featured in the accompanying article.
A Harrisonburg businessman, William Leake suffered a cut on his foot that required medical attention. Unfortunately, during that era there was no medical facility within miles, and by the time he received the care he needed, the infection in his foot left him seriously ill.
It wasn’t too late, however, for Leake to take action to help future generations. He left his bequest with the expressed intent that it be used to build Rockingham Memorial Hospital.
“Mr. Leake wanted to guarantee that when others fall ill or are injured, they can get the care they need when they need it most,” says Cory Davies, executive director of the RMH Foundation. “Figuratively, he planted the seed for the tree under which we sit today.”
The need for health care is no less vital today than it was a century ago. As the Shenandoah Valley population grows and the healthcare landscape rapidly changes, Sentara RMH must expand its services and grow to meet increasing need.
Could you be the next William Leake? Or perhaps the next David Cupp, who, through a bequest, provided funding that enabled the construction of the hospital’s hybrid operating room, where minimally invasive heart and vascular procedures are now performed.
Or maybe you can be an anonymous donor, such as the one who made a $250,000 gift through his estate that helped the Hahn Cancer Center acquire a new state-of-the-art linear accelerator, used to provide radiation therapy to cancer patients.
“Mr. Leake’s gift was visionary then, as were those of the countless others who have donated to the RMH Foundation since,” Davies says. “Indeed, from Mr. Leake’s gift to the present day, our donors’ generosity has saved countless lives and built Sentara RMH into the healthcare provider it is today.”
For more information, please contact the RMH Foundation at 540-689-8545