I want to say yes to everything.
When someone was planning a campaign for a community project in the Fox Valley, the list of people they’d like to champion it was certain to include Joyce Bytof.
For a good cause, her answer normally would have been yes. But a long battle with a rare form of cancer has forced Joyce, chairman of the board of Coldwell Banker the Real Estate Group Inc., to be more selective. She died of the disease Oct. 31, 2013.
“As my energy wanes with my illness, I can’t say yes to everything – and I want to say yes to everything. So I have to pick and choose now to do what’s important to me and to our next generation,” Joyce said in an interview a few months before her death..
She placed her faith in the Community Foundation to help carry on her charitable giving by establishing funds for both her family and corporate giving.
“There are a lot of things that become important in your life when you know you don’t have as much time as you want,” she said. “I guard each moment. I want more time and more time, and yet I know I’m not going to get a lot more time. That’s what God has decided for me.”
Joyce and Otto Bytof watched the formation of the Community Foundation in 1986 with interest.
“I would say the Community Foundation gave some of the very valuable nonprofits the impetus to start and build and grow,” Joyce said. “It helped and it taught some of the nonprofit execs what to do and how to do.”
Joyce served on the Foundation’s board 2004-11. The couple started the Otto and Joyce Bytof Family Fund in 2006 following her cancer diagnosis and became members of the Himebaugh Legacy Circle by virtue of a planned gift.
Having seen the organization from outside and inside, Joyce pointed to the simplicity of working with the Foundation as one of the things she valued most.
“You are a telephone call away from us donating money to a very worthy cause. A phone call away,” Joyce said. “I don’t have to research. I don’t have to figure things out. They say, ‘OK, thanks, we’ll take care of it.’”
The business established The Real Estate Group Foundation Fund in 2003 when agents asked for a way to support their favorite charitable causes. “This wasn’t corporate saying we’ve got to do this. This was agents saying, ‘Let’s do something for the community,’” Joyce said.
A golf jamboree helps to provide the money and an employee committee decides which nonprofit organizations receive the grants. Joyce said she ties the giving to nonprofits where the employees volunteer or that have helped them or their families. The grantmaking has grown regionally with the company, expanding into the Green Bay, Manitowoc and Stevens Point areas.
“So through our one organization here – the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region – we are able to touch all of our locations, which is just super,” she said. “We want to give back where our agents are giving back.”