More than 30 years ago, By West was asked to become a member of the first Distribution Committee of the Greater Toledo Community Foundation which was formed to manage and oversee funds to be granted to the community.
Those were rocky days. The Greater Toledo Community Foundation had just been re-established after many years of dormancy. "Because the real operation of the Foundation was so young we struggled, and I thought we would not survive, but eventually we got organized and were able to get underway," says By.
His years of serving as a volunteer with the Greater Toledo Community Foundation influenced him and his wife, Laura, to establish the Byron and Laura West Family Fund in 1999, a Legacy Society fund at the Foundation. In their wills, the Wests have made a commitment upon the death of the last surviving spouse to support various charities through the fund.
"We don't have the deepest pockets. But we have always been committed to the community's common good. The community has been very good to us," By notes.
He was born in Toledo, and Laura moved to the city at the age of five. However, it wasn't until they were students at the University of Michigan that they met.
"We reared our two children here and we were able to nurture our professional lives here. We have great friends in Toledo and are concerned about the community and its future," he adds.
"Providing for the future is one piece of retirement planning that needs to be in place. The Foundation is a source of comfort for us. It provides us with flexibility and helps us make good decisions," says Laura, a former clinical director of Harbor Behavioral Health Care, a mental health and United Way agency.
In addition to being members of the Legacy Society, the Wests established the West Donor Directed Fund to support the community through current gifts to various cultural, educational and environmental not for profit agencies.
They point out that the Foundation can guide them in making sound charitable gifts. "If we made specific early commitments to certain entities we might not be able to change our wishes if circumstances change. With the Foundation, which stays on top of institutions and their programs, we know good investments will be made," By adds.
By, who resigned as CEO of SSOE in 1989 and retired from West Carroll Architecture in 2002, recalls making appeals to his employees to support the United Way. "We had multiple cultures represented amongst our employees. Many had the perception that the government should take care of all the social needs. I would share with the employees that private agencies most often can do a better, more cost effective job helping people.
"I had a business associate from Hungary who was asked when he returned to his homeland what was one key difference between Americans and Hungarians. He said 'That's easy. Americans give away their money.' Most Americans do not understand how unusual this practice is," By adds.
Laura's parents were also very involved in the community. Her father was director of The Lucas County Family Court Center for almost 30 years and led the establishment of Linques, a community center for children. "My parents wanted to help make a difference and so do we. We're proud that our children feel the same way and support their interests with their own charitable gifts," she says.
Both By and Laura have served as volunteers and leaders of a number of not for profit organizations and through their activities have become aware of the community's needs.
As a trustee of the Toledo Orchestra Association Board (Toledo Symphony), By receives great enjoyment supporting his passion for music. "My mother was a concert pianist and I grew up with classical music. Perhaps the Symphony's biggest impact is that it functions as a brain gain for the community. I can almost guarantee that the IQs of those on stage are higher than most of us in the audience," he observes.
Although the Wests now live in Harbor Springs, Michigan, they frequently return to Toledo to enjoy the community that has helped transform their lives. "We care about the community. The Foundation has been blessed over the years with good leadership, so we know our legacy is in good hands," Laura concludes.