Legacies that empower activism

Photos l to r: Helga Herz; Credit Mary Grace Long. Joy Marks staffing a table; Courtesy Laura Dewey.

By Marybeth Gardam, Development Chair

The Detroit Branch of WILPF recently contributed $500 to support our Spring Appeal and the Craigslist “Pop Up Donation Challenge.” This means their gift could end up supporting a project for you or your branch! The Detroit Branch’s generosity has important lessons for all of us.

“Our branch is in pretty good shape, financially,” Laura Dewey, WILPF US Board Member from Detroit, explained, “thanks to a bequest from one of our members, Helga Herz.”

Helga and her mother, Alice, fled their home in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power and eventually settled in Detroit. Alice Herz died in 1965 of self-immolation in protest of the Vietnam War, following the example of Buddhist monks. Helga spent decades working for peace and justice, especially for nuclear disarmament.

As a librarian for the Detroit Public Library, Helga started a collection of the Jane Addams prize-winning children’s books, to which Detroit WILPF contributes annually. After the Berlin Wall fell, Helga launched a decade-long struggle to win title of her house in Germany, which had been confiscated by the Nazis. She then sold it and donated the proceeds to the German WILPF Section. Helga lived a simple life, and when she died in 2010, she remembered the Detroit Branch (as well as the US Section and International WILPF) in her will. That legacy has made it possible for the branch to endure with a financial cushion all these years.

“This $500 came to us when another of our members passed away,” Laura said. Joy Marks, who died in April, had served as president and treasurer for the Detroit Branch and also as a national board member for several years, although she had moved to California two years ago to be near family. “A highlight of her WILPF experience was accompanying two Soviet women who traveled around the country for two weeks,” Laura remembers.

After Joy’s death, the Detroit Branch received the unexpected $500 contribution from Joy’s brother, Robert Rasmussen

“We thought the best way to recognize and appreciate Joy’s commitment and leadership to our branch was to reinvest the money in activism throughout the U.S. and to forward the donation to national WILPF,” said Laura. “The Spring Appeal, with its challenge to help increase the program support of the Craigslist gift, appealed to us. It was an easy decision to make. Besides, as a fiscally prudent treasurer, Joy would have been delighted to know that her brother’s contribution was doubled by the Craigslist challenge.”

The Craigslist Charitable Fund dollars go directly to fund the work of the WILPF Program, through the 2017 UN Practicum Program, the DISARM Committee work and funding for other Issue Committees, and mini-grants that provide seed money for inspiring projects for WILPF members and branches. 

Bequests and memorial gifts can make a huge difference in sustaining the work of WILPF, and we want to make it easy for family members to honor a member’s commitment to WILPF by asking for donations to go to WILPF US. Later this year, we hope to roll out both a new Memorial Gift Campaign and a Legacy Giving Campaign.

“This was an exciting donation, notes WILPF US President Mary Hanson Harrison. “When a branch makes this kind of investment in the work that engages all of us, that is a unifying commitment, and we honor Detroit and Joy Marks for investing in the future. It represents a very successful branch helping to support those that may not have as much capacity to organize in their community. It’s sisterhood at the most generous and basic level.”

“Branches need to revive the art of fund-raising,” says Laura Dewey. “We’ve forgotten that we can ask folks to support our work through bake sales, yard sales, luncheons, potluck presentations, or silent auctions. And getting the word out about donations is also getting the word out about our work and what WILPF stands for. They strengthen one another. It’s all connected.”

Consider a virtual bake sale . . .

The Pentagon still gets obscene amounts of tax support … and we still have to hold bake sales to keep doing vital peace and justice work.

It’s not spring anymore, but, since we extended the donation deadline and if you haven’t made your contribution yet, go ahead and use that RETURN ENVELOPE in the new issue of Peace & Freedom. Remember: your donation helps us support Programs, Branches, and our mission.

Consider your donation to WILPF for this year’s “Spring Appeal” as the purchase of a really big homemade pie. Then, enjoy NOT having the guilt of all those calories and carbs! And thanks! We really appreciate all you do for WILPF.



Alert/Update Category: