Developing charity

When Sam Walton showed up at Aileen Leasure’s doorstep in Muskingum County, Ohio, offering to buy the 75-acre Leasure Family Farm, the superstore tycoon didn’t get what he came for that day. He never did.

Folks say Mrs. Leasure is legendary in her county for asking Walton to leave her living room and flatly refusing a portion of the Wal-Mart fortune in exchange for a piece of her farmland. She is also legendary in her community for her generosity and the impact her philanthropy has had on the area in and around Zanesville.

It was simple for Mrs. Leasure, said Brian Wagner of the Muskingum County Community Foundation. She didn’t want her farmland to be used for a flat-roofed building surrounded by acres of asphalt, Wagner said during a recent telephone conversation. Instead, she decided to share her wealth with the greater community by donating part of the Leasure farm to the Muskingum County Community Foundation, Wagner said.

Today, more and more property owners understand almost any type of real property — a personal residence, farm, vacation home, commercial building, or an undeveloped parcel of land — can be gifted for charitable purposes.

Mrs. Leasure had clear ideas of what should be done with the farmland that had been in her husband’s family for generations. Although she and her husband, Charles, didn’t have children, she wanted the farm to be used for people to live on and enjoy as she had enjoyed it for 70 years of her life. The Charles S. and Aileen Leasure Endowment was a result and an impetus for perpetual giving.

The endowed fund was established to benefit a school, the Leasure Family Scholarships, a church, other organizations and the Muskingum County Community Foundation General Fund, a fund similar to the Community Foundation of Jackson County’s unrestricted funds that finance grants for worthy projects throughout our community.

Often, giving property as a charitable gift can have a greater benefit than giving cash. Respecting Mrs. Leasure’s desires, the community foundation sold a portion of the land for the construction of an assisted living center. She was happy to continue living on her own in her nearby family farmhouse, but she was glad to have the option of remaining on her land in the event that she was unable to care for herself.

Mrs. Leasure loved to see the impact of her philanthropy in action. She remained an active philanthropist for the rest of her life. She died in 1999, but her legacy will continue for future generations — and the community that nourished the past Leasure generations will continue to benefit, thanks to her generous donations.

You, too, can make a similar impact on our community, your church and other favored charities with a gift of farmland or other real estate. Proceeds from the sale or lease of such gifts could perpetuate your family’s name and support for generations to come.

To learn more about gifts of real estate, contact the Community Foundation of Jackson County at 812-523-4483.

Dan Davis is president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. The foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1992 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Jackson County. For information, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to