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Elizabeth Kubler-Ross observed that beautiful people “do not just happen” — their compassion and concern for others is often rooted in or informed by difficult personal experiences, which sometimes accompany their many blessings. This was certainly true for Craig and Cathy Sheets.

A tax accountant and partner at the Plante Moran accounting firm, Cathy was always a high achiever. “I was a straight-A student and couldn’t understand how some students struggled to grasp things,” she said. But her first child, Sara, taught her about those struggles: she was born on the autism spectrum with a low IQ. And then, not long after their second child, Rebecca, had begun elementary school, Cathy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“I had two years where I was asking myself, ‘Why is this happening to me?’” Cathy said. But she also came to deeply appreciate her many blessings through the experience. Following her diagnosis, as she reassessed her demanding personal and professional roles, both her husband Craig and her partners at Plante Moran were supportive. She recalled: “One of my co-workers said to me, ‘You know how you love helping people? Now it’s your turn to let other people feel that love.’”

Cathy’s experience inspired the couple to seek new ways to help others in need. “We were able to manage everything — all the medical bills for me, and for Sarah, too,” she said. “We know there are so many people who need an extra hand. We asked ourselves, ‘How can we do something to help people in the community when they find themselves in that spot?’”

The couple decided to answer that question with a donor advised fund at Greater Toledo Community Foundation. Sometime later, they worked with their GTCF advisor to convert their donor advised fund to a donor advised endowed fund in which gifts are made only from interest on the fund, which enhances its longevity.

“With the endowed fund, we contribute to the fund to build capital when our tax obligations are at their highest,” Cathy explained. “It enables us to support in perpetuity the kinds of causes that are important to us. It also enables us to bring our girls into our family philanthropy. GTCF provides the oversight and vetting that will make it easy for them to continue our intentions after we are gone.”

Craig and Cathy are looking forward to the time when their endowment will reap rewards for others. “Right now, our focus is on its funding, so we are not thinking about exactly what to fund — and we see that as another benefit of working with GTCF,” she noted. “When future need arises, the money will be there.”

The couple also values the Foundation’s local focus. “Even though I didn’t grow up in Toledo and we’ve since moved away, Toledo is where we raised our family. So, it was very important to me to have that tie,” said Cathy. “Toledo gave us a lot and it has a special place in our hearts.”

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