nature inspires.

These donors have been so moved by nature they’ve made Natural Lands part of their long-range plans. In so doing, they’ve become part of our Allston Jenkins Legacy Society.

Photo: Joe Labolito

Jessie & Richard Benjamin

The Benjamins love immersing themselves in “big landscapes” whether it be exploring the Pinelands of New Jersey or strolling the trails at Natural Lands’ ChesLen Preserve. Jessie once owned a habitat restoration consulting business and has always been drawn to the land, first through her upbringing on a Chester County horse farm and then later, when she discovered her love for plants. It was on return from a rain forest trip to Peru, Jessie had her epiphany. “I suddenly saw the familiar landscape at home through dramatically different eyes.” It was then that she refocused her business on habitat restoration.

When Jessie and Richard updated their wills, they decided to factor their philanthropic interests into their planning and directed that the eventual proceeds from the sale of their home be directed to Natural Lands. When asked why Natural Lands, Richard commented that preserving land is “a way of giving back for all the wonderful times we have had hiking in Natural Lands preserves.” Jessie notes that estate planning is “a lot more fun when you include philanthropy. It resonates with us and changed the tenor of writing a will.”

There are several creative ways that gifts of real estate can further Natural Lands mission and even provide you with benefits.

Janet Fassbender

“Leaving a gift in my will to Natural Lands was an easy decision to make. It feels good to give back. My life has been formed by spending time outdoors and with nature, whether working to protect the environment, walking my dogs in the woodlands, riding my horse at ChesLen, gardening, or just drawing strength from the solitude.

I don’t know what the size of my estate will be at the end of my life, so I left a percentage of it to Natural Lands (versus a set dollar amount). I don’t have children so I focused on causes that are important to me and organizations that will stand the test of time. After all, the preserves will always need to be cared for.”

Anyone who makes a planned gift is eligible for membership in the Allston Jenkins Legacy Society. Members of the Allston Jenkins Legacy Society enjoy the great feeling they get for being a part of the Natural Lands community and playing a unique and long-lasting role in saving land and caring for nature in our region.

Eileen & Bob Schmidt

When it came time to celebrate Eileen’s birthday, she used the occasion to share her love of Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary with friends and family. In lieu of personal gifts, she asked guests to bring items to auction off so funds could be raised for her favorite local preserve.

Eileen and Bob have always been drawn to the tranquility and beauty of Mariton, located along the Delaware River in Easton, PA. “I like to say that I worship at the church of the outdoors. I find inspiration and peace from being out in nature,” Eileen noted. Since Ike, their dog, entered their lives, early morning trail walks are a part of the Schmidt’s daily routine. The solace and beauty of the woodland and meadow trails often inspire Eileen to write haikus.

Eileen and Bob are quick to note that their fondness for Mariton is anchored in their friendship and respect for Preserve Manager Tim Burris. “Tim is competent and professional in every sense of those words. He’s authentic, easy-going, and always happy to see us. He makes time to say hello. You just can’t NOT like Tim.” Eileen added, “Tim’s wife, Maureen, is equally as welcoming and generous with her time as a volunteer. Together they have built a vibrant community that supports the preserve and enjoys potlucks, movie nights, and sharing the beauty of Mariton with others.”

When they updated their wills, Eileen and Bob found yet another way to reinforce their commitment to saving land: making Natural Lands a beneficiary.

“We want more outdoors, not less! Land conservation is the number one most important thing to us, and we want to be a part of Mariton and Natural Lands. By putting a gift to Natural Lands in our wills, we become a part of what we care most about. After all, nothing happens on its’ own. Everything takes money. We hope others will join us in making a difference.”

A gift in your will, called a bequest, is one of the most popular ways to support Natural Lands.

Bob Hawkes

In September 2018, we said goodbye to Bob Hawkes, a dear friend and longtime supporter of Natural Lands. Bob was a gentle, soft-spoken man with an endless supply of generosity and purpose that—in accordance with his estate plans—now extends well beyond his lifetime.

Bob and his late wife Betsy lived on a picturesque, nine-acre farm along a small tributary to Brandywine Creek, not far from our Stroud Preserve. The property had been in the Hawkes family since 1920, and the couple felt a deep connection to the land and memories created there.

Bob’s grandfather raised strawberries and other crops in the rich soil. Bob and Betsy continued the farming tradition, growing 85 percent of their own food and donating the surplus to area food cupboards. Bob and Betsy also kept a dozen beehives and produced their own honey.

To ensure the family’s nine-acre property was protected permanently, Bob worked with Natural Lands in 2009 to place the land under conservation easement—a decision he and Betsy had made prior to her death. “I was born and raised here, and my attachment to this place has always been very deep. For me, the easement is a sort of memorial to my family and my late wife, for whom I have so much love.”

A retired professor, Bob’s lifetime of care encompassed many—the local food pantry, the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture, county and state beekeepers associations, the Volunteer English Program in West Chester, and others.

Upon his death, Bob’s generosity continued. He made significant gifts to Natural Lands via his IRA and estate, and—most touchingly—donated to us the cherished family farm. Per his wishes, the property is now sold to a new conservation steward with proceeds benefiting Natural Lands’ broader mission.

“This place is my heritage. Through Natural Lands, it will become my legacy,” Bob confided to us. And so it has.

Photo: Joe Labolito

Eileen McDonnell

The words “quiet” and “reserved” were those used most often to describe Eileen McDonnell, a longtime volunteer and 25-year member of Natural Lands, who passed away in 2016. But if you asked her about the birds and butterflies she captured so artfully in her photographs, she effervesced.

“Every time I think of Eileen, I am reminded of an excerpt from a Mary Oliver poem called ‘Instructions for Living a Life,'” said Suzanne Barton, Natural Lands’ director of planned giving and Eileen’s friend: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Eileen and her brother Bob—also a longtime Natural Lands member—were raised to work hard and save. Their father, a mechanic who built his own auto repair business, and their mother, who worked for decades as a secretary in a clothing factory, were thoughtful about putting away their earnings.

Eileen had the opportunity to attend Allegheny College and Syracuse University, where she obtained a degree in education that underpinned her career as a public school hearing and speech therapist. She never married and her teacher’s pension was more than enough to provide for her retirement—most of which she dedicated to being a voice for conservation, leading nature walks, and volunteering for Natural Lands.

Eileen’s conservation-loving friends were out in force when a Natural Lands gathering convened at Gwynedd Preserve—Eileen’s home away from home—on a warm summer day to share memories and dedicate a bench in her honor. Butterflies flitted across the meadows under a vast, cloud-streaked sky. It was a perfect and fitting tribute.

But it was Eileen who payed the most extraordinary compliment as she turned the lens outward one last time and left Natural Lands the majority of her savings—a bequest of close to $3.7 million, the single largest planned gift in our history. Her extraordinary gift will be applied to the care of Natural Land preserves, which she loved… and loved to share.

“She might have been shy and unassuming,” noted Molly Morrison, Natural Lands’ then president. “But Eileen left a mighty and indelible mark on our region’s natural world.”

Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. It is Natural Lands’ privilege, Eileen.

A gift in your will, called a bequest, is one of the most popular ways to support Natural Lands.

George Benz

“I got serious about conservation when I got serious about birding. Nothing is more beautiful to me than the calls of warblers and sparrows trilling across a spring meadow in flower. Nothing is more peaceful than paddling down the upper Delaware on a summer day; fish lazing below in the clear water and an osprey circling above. The beauty, the variety, the complexity inspire my commitment to help protect the wonder of that creation. I embrace the principal that birders should donate to conservation at least as much as they spend on their hobby.”

George notes that a deferred charitable annuity with Natural Lands was the perfect solution for him. When he retired, he received a lump sum severance distribution, faced a commensurate outsized tax bill at year-end, and then a future of much lower income. George continues, “I was able to prepay the future commitment I wanted to make to Natural Lands and take a maximum tax deduction, and now enjoy extra financial cushion in retirement. I would like future generations to be able to enjoy the beauty of the natural world as I have and establishing a gift annuity seemed a way to help make this happen.”

A Charitable Gift Annuity is a simple contract between you and Natural Lands. In exchange for your gift of cash or other assets to Natural Lands ($10,000 minimum), we agree to make fixed annuity payments to you (or up to two designated beneficiaries) for life. Annuitants must be at least 65 years old to begin receiving annuity payments.
Photo: Joe Labolito

Ben Archer

“Our family spends a lot of time outdoors walking through preserved woodlands and open fields. We visit Gwynedd Preserve on a regular basis. We love it there! We enjoy the open space, peace, and quiet. Our local area is starting to lose its rural character. We need places like Gwynedd to remember how things once were.

I believe strongly in Natural Lands’ mission. My wife and I are each leaving money to our church. In addition, I’m leaving money to Natural Lands. Open space should be cherished, preserved, and enjoyed.”

A gift in your will, called a bequest, is one of the most popular ways to support Natural Lands.
Photo: Ann Swigart

Anne Swigart

“My husband and I love exploring beautiful places, whether right here in our backyard or farther afield. Nature is transformative—for us, it’s a place to renew and clear our minds, connect with the elemental, and remember what matters most. It feels good to be members of Natural Lands and to support open space preservation in our region.

I made Natural Lands a beneficiary of my IRA. I wanted to make a planned gift that would support a local organization with an excellent reputation for land and financial stewardship. It’s rewarding to know that my gift can help make a lasting difference.”

Making Natural Lands the beneficiary of your IRA is easy to do. Just ask your provider for a Change of Beneficiary Form and name Natural Lands a full or partial beneficiary of your plan. Use what you need of your IRA and any remainder will go to further Natural Lands’ mission.

For more information on these and other ways to include Natural Lands in your long-term plans, contact Suzanne Barton, director of planned giving,
at 610-353-5587 x313.

nature persists. be a part of the forever.