Planning a fruitful legacy

Lucy and Fortunato DeCecilia stand in front of the store they built - Maycrest Hardware in Savannah. Their estate left funds which are now managed by the Catholic Foundation of South Georgia.

While when it comes to eternity, “You can’t take it with you” as the saying goes, is true, the opportunity to create a perpetual endowment to leave behind is readily available.

Established by the Diocese of Savannah in 2001, the Catholic Foundation of South Georgia (CFSG) exists to manage endowment funds in perpetuity. The CFSG is a nonprofit, independent charitable foundation overseen by a board of trustees and a professional fund manager.

The mission of the CFSG as stated on their website is “to provide effective stewardship of philanthropic assets entrusted to its care by donors who desire to advance the religious, charitable and educational works of the Catholic Diocese, its parishes, schools and agencies.”

Currently, there are 18 separate endowments in the CFSG with assets totaling $11,859,605 as of June 30, 2014. The CFSG fund is a 501 (c)(3) and its funds are protected from any usage other than as prescribed by the donors. Only the interest accrued may be used for the expressed philanthropic intentions of the donors.

The board of directors for one of those funds met on November 12 to discuss the annual distribution of the accrued interest totaling $156,358. That distribution, generated by the DeCecilia Funds are directed towards the poor of Chatham county. The board of directors is made up of five surviving family members who oversee the wishes of Lucy and Fortunato DeCecilia.

The DeCecilias, long time members of Saint James the Less Church, founded Maycrest Hardware Store in Savannah. “They were both children of immigrants,” said Betty Shay of her aunt and uncle. “He [Frank] taught himself to speak, read and write in English,” said Shay.

“Their first store was on Harmon Street and when he was building the [new] store, she worked at the one on Harmon. But then, while they had the store at Maycrest, he was also building their house in Mayfair. Built it from scratch. And they lived in it before it was finished with concrete floors,” recalled Eleanor O’Rand.

“Through only hard work were they able to be so successful and so generous. They wanted their hard work to do some good in this world and to continue. So they were smart that way and wise with their money, they wanted it to be put to good use … I know Uncle Frank worked very hard with the attorneys. It’s such a plan that the money will continue and the amount will grow and grow and that was deliberate.”

“Uncle Frank was also an avid gardener, and he gave away fruit and vegetables from his garden, and also shared many plants with folks all over Savannah, including my own grandfather. His lessons to people and his beautiful plants around town that still bear fruit are such a wonderful legacy,” said Brandi O’Rand.

The combined DeCecilia Trust, valued at $1,567,688, was transferred to the CFSG in December 2008. With reinvestment of 40% of the interest earned, the fund is valued at $2,019,165 as of June 30, 2014. The remaining 60% of the accrued interest, $594,190, has been distributed to the poor of Chatham County.

The self-perpetuating fund will continue to grow and aid the poor in perpetuity.

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