Brent and Pam Cousino have a special place in their hearts for those with developmental disabilities. For Pam, the concern became a career, and for Brent, it has been personal – but for both, the special needs community has been a priority in their philanthropic activities.
“Sunshine Communities is a particular passion point for us,” said Brent. “My brother, Craig, was severely developmentally disabled and lived at Sunshine most of his life. Pam was a speech therapist there when we met. More recently, I worked on the Sunshine campaign cabinet committee to raise $3.5 million in funds for off-campus community homes for Sunshine community members. It’s been a big part of our lives, and a focus of giving back to the community.”
In 1991, to further their support of disabled area residents and other worthwhile causes, the couple honored Brent’s beloved brother with a Toledo Community Foundation fund in his name. And with TCF oversight, their original $10,000 investment combined with additional gifts to the Craig Browning Cousino Fund has provided nearly $68,000 in grants to organizations across the region as it continues to grow.
“We were interested in supporting not only places like Sunshine Communities, but also other community services that improved the lives of others,” said Pam. To that end, the Cousinos opted for a community needs fund, wherein the Foundation identifies how to distribute funds. “We purposely chose not to make decisions about where the money goes. The Foundation knows our goals and where the community needs are – so we left it to the TCF board to decide where those resources are best used,” Brent noted.
Pam and Brent also share a connection with St. Michael’s In the Hills Episcopal Church. She came to northwest Ohio as a college graduate, shortly after her father, Paul Hannaford, accepted a position as rector of the church, where Brent was a parishioner. As the rector’s wife, Pam’s mom, Claudia, took a keen interest in the church library and became a self-taught librarian, developing St. Michael’s hodge-podge collection of largely donated books into a carefully curated and well-organized resource for the church’s parishioners.
“When Mom passed in 1996, we along with my father decided to use the
memorial gifts made in her honor to establish another fund at the
Foundation – the Claudia Hannaford Library Fund,” said Pam.
This time, the Cousinos chose a designated fund to honor Pam’s mother, devoted exclusively to supporting Claudia Hannaford’s passion, the St. Michael’s church library. “Parishioners know about the fund, and come to me with church needs,” said Pam, who recently added her mother’s former role of church librarian to the many other ways she serves the congregation. “The fund is very helpful in keeping the library current and relevant.”
One of the benefits the Cousinos have enjoyed from choosing TCF to support their charitable goals is an easy, seamless continuation of that support through their estate plans. “We’ve identified charitable beneficiaries in our estate plan through TCF, which will handle the management and distribution of those assets,” said Brent.
When asked about tax advantages with the Foundation, Brent said, “For our estate plan, it wasn’t so much about the tax advantages – it was more about leaving behind something that helps society in the future. With these funds, grants can continue on indefinitely – and should the named beneficiary cease to exist, the Foundation will see to it that the goals we had for those funds can still be met via other means. If your primary intent can’t be realized, TCF can help the overall intent survive.”
Having built a long and very successful accounting and consulting career advising organizations and business owners, Brent also appreciates many aspects of Toledo Community Foundation management.
“It was great already when we established our first fund, and now it’s terrific!” said Brent. “The Foundation has a very good, efficient system with safety factors – checks and balances. And because you have a lot of people in the community working together, you have ideas merging. Their Center for Nonprofit Resources supports nonprofit boards and executives, and helps them do what they need to do to be successful.”
He continued, “The Foundation is also great about taking initiatives – tackling big problems – and saying ‘what can we do about it?’ TCF calls attention to the needs of the community and crosses all levels of needs, putting those dollars to work where we live. The Foundation keeps upping its game, building its craft and getting results.”
Among the many ways in which Brent Cousino gives back to the community is membership in the Toledo Rotary Club, which he joined shortly after retirement. Not surprisingly, Brent’s long career in consulting soon helped him spot an area where the Toledo Rotary could significantly improve its operational efficiency.
“Of the more than 33,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide, Toledo’s is the 10th largest – and it has the world’s seventh-largest club foundation,” Brent explained. “As a committee member studying our foundation administration I learned what a huge job it was for Rotary staff to manage it. We started discussions about ways to improve our processes, and decided to take a look at Toledo Community Foundation.”
After meetings with Foundation staff and careful deliberation, Toledo Rotary decided to place its foundation assets under TCF management as four donor advised funds. “Having our funds with the Toledo Community Foundation has eased our administrative burden tremendously, while still providing the benefit of disciplined oversight” said Brent. “Charities can use the TCF tools to apply for Toledo Rotary Club Foundation funding, saving the Club an enormous amount of paperwork.”
Brent added, “Managing the club’s foundation through TCF donor advised funds has been a huge advantage. It has allowed our executive director and staff to focus on activities that directly support the mission of the organization, while still involving the club members in charitable funding decisions. We couldn’t ask for a better partner.”