The Leisure World Foundation was begun in 1995 by five Leisure World residents: Max Hiatt, Harold Luntey, Grady McKinley, Doug Shannon and John Wilkinson. Its stated purpose was, and still is “to provide charitable relief as a 501(c) (3) public charity to help meet the needs of elderly, handicapped and distressed persons in Mesa, and nearby East Valley areas including Leisure World.”
The first five years was the probationary period established by the IRS for organizations to qualify as a 501(c) (3) public charity. During that period, the Foundation operated very conservatively and it had to prove that it was providing help outside our walls and not just within the Leisure World community.
During this period, a major concern was recruiting people to serve as Directors of the Leisure World Foundation. The actual survival of the Foundation was in question until Peter and Norma Kjeldgaard stepped up and agreed to join the board and help guide it through this probationary period and beyond. Until the construction of the Fitness Center, the Foundation relied on a few generous, community minded residents for annual contributions to support their work. The results of everyone’s hard work over the past 25 years is a vibrant organization that makes our Leisure World Community unique.
To support the Foundation’s work outside the walls, Challenge Days was created in 2007. Challenge Days, a series of fun events held each winter, have included many different activities. The Tennis Club has been an annual supporter since the beginning. Each year a Golf Tournament has been supported by many contractors that perform services in Leisure World, the golf department and the golf organization. The Pickleball Club joined in as soon as they organized. Over the years we have had a bean-bag toss competition, game day, bridge day, billiards, Valley Goldmine, and a walk-a-thon along with other special events like Mardi Gras and Dancing with the Leisure World Stars. By participating in these events, you are helping to raise Challenge Day money to support local charities such as Save The Family in support of housing for Women Veterans and their families, Hospice of the Valley, IHELP, House of Refuge, and many others.
Other opportunities to support your Leisure World Foundation include The Friend’s Endowment Fund, established in 2013, to give Leisure World residents the opportunity to provide long-term stability to the Foundation and make a lasting impact on our community. Gifts to the Friends Endowment are permanently restricted with an earnings ratio that will also support charitable endeavors. Every year the Friend’s Committee conducts an annual campaign, which usually begins in November.
Undesignated gifts from Leisure World residents throughout the year help support the annual operating budget so the Foundation can carry out its mission. These gifts are welcome any time of the year.
You can contribute to your Leisure World Foundation at any time, simply by using the donation envelopes available at the counter outside the Leisure World News Office in the Library. Make the checks payable to the Leisure World Foundation, with your designation on the memo line. Your contribution may be mailed or dropped off at the front desk mail slot. All contributions are tax deductible for U.S. citizens who itemize.
Regardless of the source, donations are the life blood that allows the Leisure World Foundation to help so many people and organizations. Since its inception, the Foundation has donated more than $650,000 to groups outside our walls. At some point in our lives, all of us have contributed to charitable organizations – – organizations that provide help throughout the country and even in faraway countries around the world. But when you donate to the Leisure World Foundation, you can actually see, and perhaps even visit, the facilities and experience first-hand the good that is being done in our local area.
So please, find a way to participate in this goodness. Whether it’s through attendance at a Challenge Day event, attending a lecture, giving a gift, joining the Foundation Board of Directors, or becoming a Foundation Friend, be part of the movement to make Leisure World and our local community a better place.