Our Lady Queen of Heaven holds a special spot in the hearts of Karen and Ken Chamberlain. The couple met there, married there and one day plan to be buried in the church’s Consolata Cemetery.
For all the church has given them, the couple said they want to do something for it.
The Chamberlains have chosen to leave a legacy through an endowment at the Community Foundation that allows a person or couple to leave something for their family, church and community all in one place.
“We’re so excited to be doing this,” Karen said. “Everybody thinks it’s so sad, but it’s not. This process brought us joy thinking of what we care about today and how we have made plans to support those things forever.”
Karen said the endowment has allowed her and her husband to make their end-of-life plans now and fund it after they’ve enjoyed their lives.
“We had a couple of goals, one of them was to make sure each other would be taken care of first, one of them was to leave money to our family, and then to leave money to our church and the community,” Karen said. “When we started putting together our end-of-life documents, we realized that it was a little tricky to know how to do it and the Community Foundation gave us a vehicle for all of it.”
Karen said the couple knew of the Community Foundation through various organizations for which they volunteer.
“But we didn’t know we could piece together what we wanted to do with what the Foundation does,” she said. “When we started putting together our will and educating ourselves about what our choices were, we realized we were going to have to make some decisions.”
She said the couple aren’t ready to commit a dollar amount now because they don’t know what that number will be. Instead they are choosing to leave percentages of their estate to their family and other percentages to their church and other organizations within the community.
“This church and our Catholic faith has been part of everything we’ve done from the first night that we met all through the years of us dating and even now,” Karen said. “We had an opportunity to move out of town and we didn’t because of this church. It’s our family and it’s home; it’s us and it’s everything we know.”
Karen said it’s their wish to continue to share their love with Our Lady Queen of Heaven even after their passing.
“We could have made the decision to give a percentage of our will to the church but then it would be a one-time thing,” she said. “The Foundation will allow the church to receive money every year from the fund forever. We love that idea.”
Ken said there is no stipulation in their endowment on how the church can use the funds.
“It’s a gift that will keep on giving,” he said.
The couple also set up a separate endowment for the Diocese of Lake Charles that will contribute to seminarian training.
“We love our church community and we also love Lake Charles,” Ken said. “Why wouldn’t we want to do this?”
Karen said their plans also instruct the Community Foundation to focus funds on organizations dear to them, particularly those that serve children like the Junior League, United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Harbour House.
“We feel comfortable that the group of people who serve on the Community Foundation are going to make good decisions because this is going to be forever,” Karen said.
The Chamberlains said it was important to them to have their end-of-life plans in place during their lifetimes.
“I love her, she loves me and we want to make sure the other one is taken care of,” Ken said.
“We made these decisions together,” Karen said. “It’s really a gift to each other that we have made our plans so that whichever one of us is the last one standing, the other knows the plans that we made together.”
She said for those who have been chosen to manage their affairs upon their deaths, all the information — fully detailed in a three-ring white binder adorned with images of vines and the words ‘The Chamberlains’ in green letters — is ready for them to easily carry out their wishes.
Sara Judson, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana, said if others are interested in setting up a legacy of their own her job is to help guide them.
“It is an easy process and if there are other people that haven’t gotten this far in their own journey but they learn about what the Chamberlains have done and think this is something they want to know more about, that’s what I’m here for,” Judson said. “I help them have these conversations and connect them with the resources to create that legacy that goes on forever that is fine-tuned to be just what they want it to be.”
Judson said the legacy can be created now without any donation being made. Instead, the endowment is set up to be ready to go upon the person’s passing.
“That way, you can use the money you have earned in your lifetime to take care of yourself during your lifetime, and whatever is left, whether it is a little or a lot, goes to your family and your fund,” she said.
The Chamberlains said they are proud of their decision.
“We worked hard for years and now we get to share that with future generations,” Ken said.