It really brought a lot of joy.
In her final years, Margaret “Tot” Schmerein found a special pleasure in getting together with her daughter over a cup of tea to select recipients for grants from the family’s charitable fund at the Community Foundation.
Shelly Leadley, Foundation director of donor services, would meet with Tot and her daughter, Mame Heaney, also of Neenah.
The three would sit around a card table with a view of a frozen Lake Winnebago, chat about family and then review the list of nonprofit projects and organizations Leadley had compiled based on their giving preferences.
Initially, the plan had been to pass the grantmaking on to Mame and her brother, John, by leaving money to the family fund after Tot’s death. Instead, Tot made additional gifts to the Schmerein Family Fund in the form of highly appreciated stock during her life.
“It made more sense to me for her to have the fun of giving the money away,” Mame said.
Philanthropy was not a big household topic when Mame was growing up, she said, but that changed when her mom got involved with the Community Foundation.
Tot most liked giving to help children. YouthGo, the YMCA of the Fox Cities and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Fox Cities were among her favorites.
“It became more a part of her life,” Mame said. “It really brought a lot of joy for mom.”
Tot died Jan. 8, 2015, just 20 days shy of her 97th birthday. Her husband, John, preceded her in death in 2007.
The fund continues to grow through investment and with revenue from an unusual source – the very building where the Community Foundation is located.
A real estate investment company owned by the family donated the building at 4455 W. Lawrence St. in Grand Chute to the Community Foundation in 2007. Part of the arrangement was that rental income from the portion of the building the Foundation did not need to occupy would flow to the Schmerein Family Fund. The rent money adds to the family fund, generating more money available for grantmaking each year.
In that way, their family fund will continue to be a major source of philanthropy for the Schmereins’ descendants long into the future.