Mary Ellen Garrett

Tocqueville Society Chair & Tocqueville Women United Member

“Could any force be more powerful than thousands of women philanthropists working hand-in-hand with nonprofits, neighborhoods, companies, schools, and other-who all share the same goal of a safe, stronger region?”

Count on Mary Ellen Garrett to ask that important question.

The 34-year Merrill Lynch veteran is no stranger to success. In addition to numerous internal accolades, she has received multiple years of recognition from Forbes as one of the nation’s top wealth advisors.

However, one thing that has always set Mary Ellen apart is her ability to leverage her own talents for the benefit of others. Many Atlanta-based nonprofits can attest to the value she has brought to their organizations: Mercy Care Foundation, Atlanta Catholic Archdiocese, Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, The Carter Center… just to name a few.

She is a trailblazer in every sense of the word, but especially at United Way.

Twenty years ago, Mary Ellen joined the Tocqueville Society at the recommendation of her colleague and mentor, Jere Goldsmith.

It didn’t take long before she decided she had an important role to play in uplifting other women, too. Mary Ellen was a guiding force in establishing Women’s Legacy (which is now called Women United), and later, Tocqueville Women United.

Shortly afterwards in 2004, Mary Ellen and her husband Scott became the very first household – which includes their son, Alex, and twin daughters, Anna and Patsy – to establish themselves as Legacy Leaders with a planned gift to United Way of Greater Atlanta.

Mary Ellen joined United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Board of Directors, and in 2012, she brought her talents to United Way Worldwide’s U.S.A. Board of Trustees.

Most recently, Mary Ellen became the chair of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Tocqueville Society—the first woman to hold that position. As Chair, Mary Ellen represented our Tocqueville Society in Omaha, Nebraska, meeting with the family of Peter and Warren Buffet to open the doors for transformational giving.

It is an understatement to say that we are grateful for Mary Ellen Garrett’s decades of support – Atlanta is a better place because of her joy in philanthropy.

For many people, giving to United Way of Greater Atlanta has become a way of life.

Donors understand the importance of that gift. By giving to United Way, you can ensure people in need will receive care and resources. But, you don’t have to just give to United Way while you are living.

Legacy Leaders is an affinity group that honors individuals or couples who commit to a planned gift through wills or estate plans. These Legacy Leaders are committed to building a stronger United Way now and for the future.

“They [Legacy Leaders] realize the importance of United Way being in their community, and they want to make sure that they continue that work,” says Eve Powell, United Way of Greater Atlanta’s director of Individual Giving. “That is our biggest selling point. We know that United Way is going to be focused on the most pressing social issues in our community. We want to make sure that there is a United Way in Atlanta’s future.”

Legacy Leaders partner with United Way to enable long-term community change through their endowment. Their gifts are what helps United Way solve future problems not yet imagined.

One of the benefits of making a planned gift are that you can save on estate taxes, which is a tax on an inherited portion of an estate, you can reduce and defer capital gains taxes and receive charitable tax deductions.

You can designate United Way as a beneficiary of your estate by will, trust or another instrument. It can be a sum of money, property or a percentage of your estate.

The most common way for people to give to United Way and become a Legacy Leader is through their wills, Powell says. Eighty percent of planned gifts are made through a will. She said life insurance and gifts from IRAs are also common ways to give.

Brad Currey has been a United Way donor since 1954. His first experience was with Community Chest, which was United Way’s predecessor. Currey worked his first 23 years in Atlanta for a bank in Georgia, and in his first year in Atlanta, the bank’s president called he and another employee into his office to let them know that they would work on assignment soliciting donations for Community Chest as a loaned executive.

“He sat us down and glared at us and said, ‘I’m sending you two over to the Community Chest to work as coordinators,’” Currey said. “’I don’t want to hear about anybody getting there late and leaving early, and when you get back from this assignment, I want you to know who [everybody] is in this town.”

The two men passed out pledge cards, spoke to different employee groups and visited other human service agencies. He worked for three years as a coordinator. He said he got to see all parts of Atlanta.

Currey gave to United Way by payroll deduction in 1954, and he has donated every year since. He most recently made a provision in his will to provide enough money for his pledge to live on after he dies.

“There’s nothing more important than giving kids a decent start in life,” Currey said. “So, I decided when I [pass away] I want my contribution to continue… I think that’s the best legacy I could possibly leave this town that has been so good to me.”

President and CEO of Wesley Woods Foundation Tracy Crump said she’s always contributed to United Way. Whether you make United Way a beneficiary of your 401K, include it in your will, or fund a life insurance plan, “it’s easy and gratifying to do,” Crump says.

“I am a long-time supporter of United Way. I’ve lived in several cities and have always contributed and volunteered where I’ve lived,” Crump said. “United Way is vital to the health of our community. That’s why I’ve included United Way in my estate plans.”

Conchita Robinson is a president of C Robinson Associates, Inc. Robinson joined IBM right out of college, and her first United Way assignment was as an executive helping with the annual campaign. She said each year her knowledge of the community and its challenges grew stronger, and she felt like United Way was one of the most efficient and effective ways to address the issues in our community. That’s why she chose to be a Legacy Leader.

“To continue to support the organization to which I’ve given my time, talents and treasures throughout my career seemed a logical step,” Robinson said. “For that reason, I included United Way of Greater Atlanta in my estate plans through a life insurance policy. This was much easier than I imagined to set up, and allows me to make a lasting and significant gift.”

By giving to United Way even after they pass, Currey, Robinson and Crump help ensure the people they have supported for all of these years will continue to benefit.

“If you’re going to include us in your will, then that means you like what we are doing, and you are close to us,” Powell said. “We are like a family member. There are lot of people that love United Way and want to make sure United Way is still around.”

Learn more about ways you can become a Legacy Leader by emailing legacy@unitedwayatlanta.org or visiting www.unitedwayatlanta.org/group/legacy-leaders.

 

Everyone needs to have a plan. 

Now is the time to put your new year’s resolutions into action. Make or review your will and plans. Maybe your family has experienced a life changing event that will impact your plans, such as a birth, a death, a divorce, retirement or business changes. These changes all need to be considered as decisions are made. Let United Way of Greater Atlanta help.

You can also help our Greater Atlanta community and sustain your impact by including a gift in your will to United Way. This allows you to further our mission without drawing on your current resources. Making or updating your will and including a gift to United Way of Greater Atlanta is easier than you might imagine. It can be as simple as including a sentence in your will or living trust naming United Way with an amount or percentage. You might also schedule time with an estate planning attorney or use FreeWill.  

We’ve partnered with FreeWill to give you a free, intuitive way to write your will today. Click here to start writing your will at no cost to you. This tool is free to you — whether you choose to include a gift to United Way of Greater Atlanta or not — and can be used to create your full legal will, for free, or begin your plans before seeing an attorney. Remember, a will is not for us but for the ones we love.

For more information on including United Way in your will, request your free copy of Leaving Your Legacy: A Guide to Planning Your Will and Trust. Please contact: Eve Powell at 404-527-7215 or epowell@unitedwayatlanta.org.

You can also go to our website for more details: www.unitedwayatlanta.org/group/legacy-leaders.