Issue 8 Stories

Philanthropy Begins at Home

From the time they were married 47 years ago, Jim and Betsy Greene have endeavored to contribute positively to their communities—whether in Tallahassee, Fla.; the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area; or, today, in Charlottesville.

“We feel it’s important to invest in the community where you live and give back to the people and organizations around you when you can,” says Jim, who hails originally from Boone, N.C., and earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Virginia Tech. “Hopefully it makes things just a little bit better for everyone.”

Since taking up residence at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge (WCBR) five years ago, significant portions of the couple’s time and resources have been devoted to helping others.

Fully retired with no children, the Greenes are now engaged in supporting local organizations such as Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, the McIntire Botanical Garden, the Virginia Festival of the Book and the Municipal Band of Charlottesville. In addition, they are actively engaged in their WCBR community.

Jim serves on the board of trustees of the WCBR Foundation, which financially supports residents who have outlived their funds. In addition, he enjoys tapping into his passion for photography and sharing photos of the birds and animals he finds on the 55-acre WCBR campus. “It helps bring the outdoors inside for those who are unable to get outside,” Jim explains, “and they seem to appreciate it.”

Jim’s photographs have been so popular that he had them published in a book entitled Wildlife at WCBR, which was offered for sale in the WCBR gift shop. Proceeds from the sold-out venture benefitted the WCBR Foundation. Jim is now working on a second photographic collection and expects it to go on sale in the WCBR gift shop in November.

Meanwhile, Betsy, who has family in the Charlottesville area, including a cousin who worked as a physician at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, jumped at an invitation to serve on the hospital’s all-volunteer Women’s Committee.

For Betsy, volunteering at hospitals has been a lifelong passion. As a teenager in her hometown of Fredericksburg, she worked as a candy striper at Mary Washington Hospital. When Jim took a job as a college professor in Tallahassee, she volunteered at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Later she volunteered at INOVA Fairfax Hospital after the couple moved to northern Virginia, where Jim served first as a science adviser for the Science, Space and Technology Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and later as chief of staff to Carrye Brown, administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration.

Betsy’s many volunteer jobs throughout the years have included transporting patients, taking blood to the lab, discharging patients, bringing flowers to rooms, and helping patients before and after same-day surgery. At one point, she worked as a shift supervisor who delegated tasks to junior volunteers, many of whom she mentored, encouraged and stayed in touch with, even as they pursued professions within the healthcare industry.

“I just love helping people,” says Betsy, who also worked as a middle school teacher in both Florida and Alexandria, Va. “And I love knowing that it also helps the hospital and the community, since my work either helps lower costs or adds a service that wouldn’t otherwise be available to patients.”

As a Women’s Committee member, Betsy enjoys volunteering annually at Martha’s Market, helping with accounting, unloading vendor trucks, greeting shoppers, checking coats or doing whatever else needs to be done to make the event a success. She also volunteers when the committee sponsors and hosts free breast cancer screenings for local women.

Her enthusiasm for her volunteer work here in Charlottesville has everything to do with the hospital itself. “It’s so pleasant, so friendly and so accessible,” she says, explaining that she’s taken family members and WCBR residents to Sentara Martha Jefferson for health care, and that she herself had to go to the Emergency Department on one occasion when she cut her foot. “I am so impressed with everything about Sentara Martha Jefferson, and I find the staff to be incredibly kind, from the doctors and nurses, to the people at the registration desk, to the facilities workers.”

These experiences have encouraged the Greenes to find additional ways to support the hospital. Recently, they began using their Qualified Retirement Plan Required Minimum Distribution to make charitable gifts to their preferred charities. Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital is now the most significant community beneficiary of these funds, according to Betsy.

This important giving tool, known as a Charitable IRA Rollover, is a special provision in the tax code that allows donors to give a portion of their IRA (up to $100,000 a year) tax-free to a charitable organization. The legislation, which was made permanent in 2015, requires donors to transfer the money directly to public charities. If it is ever deposited into a separate personal account, it is then considered taxable income.

Done properly, Jim says, “the Charitable IRA Rollover is a win-win for everyone. You don’t have to pay taxes on those types of donations, so all of that money goes fully to causes you care about.”

And, Betsy laughs, “I don’t have to write any checks anymore. Now we fill out a form with our financial adviser and direct when and where we want the money to go. It’s easy and allows us to be more strategic. And it has encouraged us to make larger donations at key times of the year rather than a lot of small donations, which we hope will allow us to make more of an impact.”

The Greenes say that they will continue to support Sentara Martha Jefferson, specifically The Women’s Committee, as much and as often as they possibly can. The hospital is even a named beneficiary in their wills.

“We’ve been blessed to have some money to give,” says Jim. “So why not give it to a local cause, so that friends, neighbors and others in the community can benefit from it?”

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