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A 2015 bequest from a local VA pharmacist provided $200,000 for the riverside Doris Miller Memorial, which is now wrapping up construction. Many family estates leave generous gifts to create a brighter future for multiple generations.

Waco has been my home for 25 years, yet I am still constantly amazed and humbled by the generosity and charitable spirit of the people who live here. I made the decision to join the Pie Society and include local charity in my estate plans because I want my legacy to provide for the future needs of the community that is so dear to my family and me. I hope to encourage others to do the same so that together we can ensure Waco’s brightest future.

I’ve served on various nonprofit boards, including Waco ISD Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters and most recently Waco Foundation. I was a Waco Foundation trustee for 11 years and spent my last two years as chair. As a board, we began discussing the importance of legacy giving and planned gifts several years ago when we conducted a transfer-of-wealth study for our region. The study indicated that over the next 50 years, our region is estimated to transfer $86.7 billion to the next generation. If philanthropy captured just 5 percent of that, it would result in $1.3 billion for McLennan County nonprofits alone.

The results of the transfer-of-wealth study, coupled with the realization that federal and state funds for nonprofits continue to dwindle while the need for services increases, led to conversations about how we could best help local nonprofits talk about planned giving and encourage planned gifts. We know most nonprofits have limited, if any, development staff and executive directors are usually handling a number of different things at any given time, making planned giving difficult to prioritize. Waco Foundation developed the Pie Society as our solution to nonprofits’ requests for help with soliciting and stewarding planned giving donors.

Pie Society is a legacy-giving society for people who have decided to leave a portion of their estate, or a piece of their pie, to local charity. Waco Foundation administers and facilitates Pie Society in an effort to promote planned giving, but a Pie Society member can leave a donation to any charity for any amount. The what, who and how is completely up to the donor. Waco Foundation is partnering with dozens of nonprofits across McLennan County to spread the word and encourage folks to consider including charity in their plans and sign up as a Pie Society member to encourage others to do the same.

As an attorney specializing in elder law, I work closely with families as they prepare their estate plans. A number of my clients have included local charity in their documents, which speaks to the generosity of the folks who call Waco home. For years, the standard practice was to think about including charity in estate plans when folks were working on their last will — not when people have young families or are in the prime of their careers.

What we know now is that anybody at any age in any stage of life can consider planned giving. We typically think of a bequest from a will when we think about a planned gift, but there are many options that may be easier and more attractive for different types of donors. Life insurance, retirement assets and real estate are all great planned giving options. There are also charitable lead and remainder trusts, charitable gift annuities and gifts of stock that may be a good fit for some. The point is, there are countless, creative options for every person in every stage of life. If we all give a little (or a lot) to the charities we are passionate about, it will make a difference.

East Waco Library

An estate bequest through the Waco Foundation provided grants for a $1.5 million makeover of the East Waco Library completed in summer 2016.

Kent Keeth


Think about the impact some of the planned gifts have already made in our community. In 2011, Barbara LeBar, a former instructor at Texas State Technical College, left $640,000 of her estate to support Waco public libraries. A 2015 bequest from William Travis Clarke Jr., a pharmacist at the local veterans hospital, provided $200,000 for the Doris Miller Memorial that is just wrapping up construction. Most recently, former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth left the entirety of his estate to Waco Foundation to improve quality of life in our community. These are just a few examples of how the generosity of one family can create a brighter future for multiple generations.

I realize the gifts mentioned are large gifts, but it is also important to know that the average estate gift is $60,000. Most people who leave estate gifts don’t consider themselves wealthy, but a $60,000 gift to charity is more than most of us can give at one point during our lifetimes. No estate is too small to make a difference with a charitable planned gift.

I am proud to be a Pie Society Member, and I hope others will consider joining too. Signing up as a Pie Society member is simply a way of formalizing your commitment to supporting the charitable causes you care about in a meaningful way. The difference it can make for local nonprofits and our community is substantial. Visit, sign up and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If we all leave a small piece, it will create a brighter future for the community that we love and call home.

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Cara Chase is a former Waco Foundation trustee and an attorney with Naman Howell Smith & Lee focusing on elder law, estate planning, probate, guardianship and trust law. She is a frequent lecturer on elder law topics to both professional and community groups in Central Texas, including the Baylor People’s Law School, the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association, the Area Agency on Aging, local nursing homes and non-profit organizations.