The 10 children of Lucy and Frank Beezat, shown in this family photo, have formed Lucy’s Children’s Fund, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to assisting and providing opportunities for poor children around the world. (Submitted photo courtesy the Beezat family)
Lucy's Children's Fund, visit: http://www.lucyschildrensfund.org/index.html.
Parents’ lessons result in Lucy’s Children’s Fund
By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald
MT. PLEASANT - As one of 10 children, Robert Beezat remembers hand me downs, shared toys, noisy chatter and constant companionship. Their family was not rich, but they were happy, warmly dressed and well fed.
His parents, Lucy and Frank, taught their children the importance of caring for family, friends and their community. Both believed that every child and every person should be treated with respect and with love.
"They were always thinking of others in the neighborhood or in our parish," said Beezat, a member of St. Edward Parish in Racine. "Whenever others had problems or needed a hand, they did it."
Six years ago, Beezat, who lives in Mt. Pleasant, asked for a unique gift for his 60th birthday, one that would keep his parents' memory alive. With the help of his wife and the blessings of his siblings, they began Lucy's Children's Fund, a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) corporation dedicated to assist and provide opportunities for poor children around the world.
"Our family always makes a big deal of big birthdays and I decided that I have had enough; I don't need another tie, a shirt or bottle of wine. I really don't need anything," he said. "I have enough money - it isn't a lot, but it is enough. My kids are grown up, have jobs and all the college debts are paid up. So, I asked my wife, Alice, who is an accountant, to set this up as her birthday present to me."
Family and friends loved the idea, and handed Beezat checks for the foundation in lieu of gifts at his 60th birthday party. The idea grew to include Christmas and the birthdays of siblings, nieces and nephews, as well as deposits throughout the year.
"We give gifts to the foundation for bonuses, raises or revenue from businesses," Beezat admitted, adding, "My sister Margaret (Goodheart) was recently married and she requested that donations be made to the foundation in lieu of wedding gifts."
Since it was her second marriage and she was getting married a bit later in life, Goodheart wanted the presence of her family at the July 2006 celebration rather than tangible presents, she said.
"At this stage in our lives we had everything we could possibly want and need. There was no reason to buy us things; we didn't want that, and we wanted the funds to go somewhere else," she said. "Lucy's (Children's) Fund is near and dear to us and people were thrilled to donate."
Since its inception, Lucy's Children's Fund has given more than $50,000 to 47 children's charities throughout the United States and the world. The foundation has not only benefitted children in need, but has brought the family closer together, said Goodheart, who gives full credit to her brother.
"We have a phenomenal family - we are basically just a Polish family, most of us live on the Northwest side of Chicago and we got together because of Robert," she said. "We tease him and call him 'St. Robert' because he is so inspirational and wonderful - he is an amazing man. Our kids and nieces and nephews are involved and many are on the board. This foundation brings them all together for reasons other than parties or holiday gatherings."
Lucy's Children's Fund follows IRS rules as a tax-exempt organization. All donations are tax-exempt and contributions from the fund must be to other IRS qualified not-for-profit corporations. As required by law, the fund has a board of directors, which consists of Lucy's children and grandchildren.
According to Beezat, each family is allowed to have members on the board, and each family gets one vote. There are seven families represented on the board.
"Anyone over 18 can be on the board, and we have meetings twice a year," he said. "Each member is required to recommend a grant, research and present information on the qualified organization," he said. "We focus on kids, because there is plenty of need for them. Some people have illnesses in families and things related to cancer or just a variety of things. We donate to a variety of children's organizations and have some that are regulars we donate to."
While instituted by older family members, Goodheart is encouraged that the lessons in Catholic stewardship are branching out to the younger generation who are learning the art of compassion, and often come up with creative ideas for giving.
"We have nieces and nephews ranging from 13 through 38 and you never know what those silly kids will come up with. But, our family is so much closer together and the cousins have bonded together like nothing I have ever seen," said Goodheart. "The organization is very structured; they do research and vote on that. My daughter is a graphic designer and is involved in the Web site design. They were really close before, but this has really brought them together."
For Beezat, the choice to share their treasures with those less fortunate is a way of life and not a statement in personal attribution.
"We were raised to do this," he said. "People need stuff and I got something. I've got enough - we have always had enough. I don't do this to feel good, but I try to remember what Jesus said about if someone is hungry to give them something to eat. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, or something to wear. That is the right way for all of us to live and if we do that, we won't have one tenth of the problems we have in this world."
A common misperception is that families must be wealthy to set up a foundation, but that is not true, according to Beezat. Lucy's Children's Fund began small, and continues to grow by the enthusiasm, generosity and practical ideas of the family members.
"It took some work on my wife's part - she is an accountant, and does these things very well," he said. "You don't need an attorney to do this, but if you know someone who is good with numbers, they can do it. If someone wants to start a foundation, they first file with the Secretary of State in their state, incorporate and apply to the IRS for the tax exempt status and do it right."