For Mark Volz, the idea of charitable giving was instilled by his parents.
“I realize how extremely lucky I am to benefit from intergenerational stability,” said Mark, who was adopted from the Philippines and grew up in Menomonee Falls. “I grew up in an affluent area, and didn’t really realize when I was younger how the system was difficult for so many people to have their basic needs met, including housing.”
After graduating from UW-Whitewater, he began working in the financial sector. In 2018 he met someone who had gone on a global village trip with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. He went to an info meeting a few months later, and went on his first trip to El Salvador in March 2019
When he came back, he started volunteering regularly with the new friends he made.
“The good feeling you get from building the houses, and seeing the actual, direct impact that you’re having on a family’s life,” Mark said, when asked what motivates him about Habitat’s mission.
He said his time volunteering with Milwaukee Habitat has put his privilege into perspective, as the organization helps families create their own intergenerational wealth through homeownership.
“I realized all of our commonalities and our shared humanity. We’re all fighting for the same thing. If we let go of our lens of privilege, we can start to truly partner with people,” he said. “A safe, affordable home can lessen so many of the other issues that people are facing in life, and that we’re facing in our communities.”
Two events over the past ten years impacted Mark’s decision to make a legacy gift pledge. “A close friend passed away 8 years ago, and I saw what his family went through trying to handle his assets,” he said. The pandemic also put things into perspective, as a thirty-something professional without children.
Mark decided to designate a gift in his life insurance policy to Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. “This way, things are properly directed, and my family isn’t burdened. It makes it easy for both my nieces and nephews, as well as the organizations I care about,” he said.
The process was easy, as he talked to his financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual. “The younger you do this, the more affordable life insurance will be.”
“Making a legacy gift makes me feel hopeful. You can’t change the past history of housing discrimination, but we can change what the future looks like. In the future, my last gift can help future generations, and inspire others,” he said.
Kate Petrosky began volunteering with Milwaukee Habitat through her job at MGIC on Saturdays, a handful of times, starting in 2008.
“Before finding Habitat, I used to refer to myself as a ‘failed volunteer’,” said Kate. “I used to try administrative activities for other organizations, and I just never felt a lasting pull. There’s something in the physicality of the doing and the building, and the being in community with others, that brought me back.”
She returned to working with that company in 2015, and she realized she had missed volunteering. Once back on the build site, she became an individual volunteer, and then a Habitual.
Kate said that her eyes were opened to issues in the community, and it increased her drive. Milwaukee Habitat impressed her with how it is run as an organization, and over time, she’s devoted more energy and more financial contributions to Milwaukee Habitat. Her mom has even gotten involved as a donor.
“I started paying attention to my benefits packages offered by my employer, and as my parents aged, saw the process they went through. I started to think about my own assets, and how I could maybe make an impact.”
As someone in her forties without children, Kate wanted to make sure her assets went where they’re most needed. “My family doesn’t necessarily need my contributions, so who does?”
Her pledge was also spurred on by noticing the sign for the first ever Milwaukee Habitat Legacy House in 2021.
“I asked, what’s this? Who can be a part of it?” said Kate.
Kate realized the easiest way to make an impact was through her life insurance policy at MGIC. The process of designating Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity as her beneficiary was straightforward.
“I’m glad it’s done and it’s all set. Anything could happen,” she said.
Kate says this desire to commit to something more in the long-term comes from that same desire of seeking human connection and community through her work with Habitat.
“Volunteering with Habitat, getting to know the homeowners, it feels like an old-timey barn raising. You can feel the whole community coming together with a sense of pride, that idea that ‘of course we would rally and help you and lift you up,’” she describes.
Kate also appreciates the intergenerational interactions she’s had on the build site. And, it’s also served as an inspiration for legacy giving.
“I want to make sure this thing keeps going,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see the innovations of how Habitat has grown, in who we serve and how we serve them. We have to continue the mission, even after we’re gone.”
For nearly 25 years, Anne Neafie has volunteered on build sites for Habitat for Humanity, and has been instrumental in orchestrating the Faith Build House each year. “I want to see Habitat move on beyond the time I’m able to volunteer,” she says. And that’s what prompted her to designate a portion of her estate to Milwaukee Habitat. “If you’re volunteering your time and talents, and sharing in donations in your lifetime and making it a priority, you want Habitat to continue its mission after you’re gone.”
You may have been greeted with a cheery hello from Lois Bernard when entering the Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The dedicated volunteer says working as a cashier brings her joy and fulfillment. “We have many interesting items to sell and I love the socialization,” she says.
Lois also loves Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s mission. “I am a retired Milwaukee Public School teacher; while teaching I recognized how important it is for students to live in a safe, affordable, stable home,” she says. Lois feels the sweat equity standards help families find their footing. “Achievement of these standards helps to give the new homeowner not only a new home but the confidence, strength and a good feeling of personal success in that they have helped to build a stable, safe future for themselves and their family.”
When it came time for Lois to think about leaving a gift in her trust, she says Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity was top on the list. “I have been fortunate in my life both financially and with my health, and feel that helping MHFH to build homes for families is a great place to leave my financial gift.”
Robert & Evelyn Klug
Bob and Evie Klug were the embodiment of happiness through service. Their retirement life was enriched as active volunteers for many civic and charitable causes, including Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity since 1995. They were well-known for their big hearts, devoting countless volunteer hours and financial support.
A true legacy is a combination of emotional and financial elements, while an inheritance is simply financial. In August 2013, Milwaukee Habitat received a legacy gift from the Klug’s estate. Bob & Evie established a legacy that provides for future generations and reflects their personal history, values and vision.