Terry and Linda Heller both grew up on small farms in western Illinois, graduating from a high school class of about 50 students. After living in Chicago while working towards his PhD, Terry received a teaching opportunity in the English Department at Coe College, and the couple settled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
It has been a good fit for Terry and Linda – they appreciate the opportunities the larger community provides, but enjoy the accessible, small-town feel. They raised a son in Cedar Rapids, and regularly gave modest, charitable contributions to area nonprofits.
After the passing of Terry’s parents, Rollin and Betty, in 2010 and 2014 respectively, Terry and Linda were surprised to learn that they would receive a significantly larger inheritance than they had expected. Rollin and Betty retired from farming in 1972. They sold their machinery but never discussed the value of their farm.
A kind and somewhat eccentric couple, Rollin and Betty devoted their post-farming life to volunteerism and serving others. They joined the Peace Corps and served for five years in the Philippine Islands. They traveled around the world, even staying and working for a time on a kibbutz in Israel. After returning home, they moved to a quaint residence in their hometown, but regularly traveled to the Gulf Coast and Southwest to do service work with the United Methodist Church. “My parents taught me that if you want to live in a good-hearted community, it makes sense to be good-hearted yourself,” says Terry.
After a discussion with a friend and their financial advisor, Terry and Linda began thinking about using their inheritance to give back. “We’ve always felt an obligation to serve our community,” reflects Terry. “However, we’ve always had only a modest income and lived frugally. Our lives seemed so full of work and family obligations that we never had time to volunteer as much as we would have liked.”
The Community Foundation felt like a good vehicle for the Hellers’ charitable giving. They could give now and give more because of the benefit of the Endow Iowa tax credits. Terry and Linda established a fund as a memorial to Rollin and Betty.
“Mom and Dad labored hard to make their farm successful,” Terry insists, “and so we felt some of what they built should be given away to nonprofits that they would have supported themselves. It’s very satisfying to feel you’re following in their footsteps.”
Terry and Linda look forward to growing the fund so that, through it, they can give substantial amounts forever to the local organizations that have enriched their lives. They believe that the Rollin and Betty Heller Memorial Fund will continue to do good for years to come.