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Paul F. Oreffice: The Greatest Reward

Paul F. Oreffice: The Greatest Reward

By Paul F. Oreffice

There is a common perception that people who make planned gifts to an organization can do so thanks to vast wealth that is often inherited.

This was not my situation. I was born in Venice, Italy, and moved with my family first to Quito, Ecuador, then to the United States. When I arrived here at age 17, I had nothing.

After earning a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University, and two years in the Army, I joined The Dow Chemical Company. I held a series of international and management positions before becoming President and CEO of the company in 1978, then Chairman of the Board.
Along the way, I made a decision that would later impact the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF). As I started doing better in life, I created a foundation to support two goals: medical research and patient care. My foundation made donations to many organizations.

Then I met Nathan Slewett, Past President and Chairman of the Board of the National Parkinson Foundation. And I fell in love with the man and his mission!

As I learned about NPF, I saw that it was very worthy of supporting. I found that NPF has one of the lowest expense ratios among nonprofits, with an unusually large portion of funds raised going to the mission. That was something I always looked at before contributing to an organization.

Although when I met Mr. Slewett I had never known anyone with Parkinson's disease, that soon changed as I became increasingly involved with NPF. I became a Board member, a member of the Board of Governors, then Chairman of the Board from 2003 to 2007. Over the years, I made significant donations to NPF. But as time passed, I found I wanted to use my own foundation to do more to support NPF's unique and important mission.

While most Parkinson's organizations fund basic research, NPF is unique in doing as much as possible to be of real help to patients and families. I emphasize again the families. One of the tough aspects of Parkinson's disease is the challenges it presents for the family. Having a person with Parkinson's in the family can change everyone's life. NPF's Centers of Excellence in universities throughout the world are researching how to best address the urgent needs of Parkinson's patients and their families. We need to give these Centers money for more research, so more scientists can work on the problems of Parkinson's.

The idea of making a planned gift to NPF incubated within me for quite a while. I liked knowing that, upon my demise, my money would go to causes I care about, and to organizations where I know the money will be well-spent. A lot of nonprofits spend a huge portion of money on self-aggrandizement. NPF puts almost all funds directly toward the mission. I researched carefully to make sure my planned gift would be carried out properly.

I decided to deed 25 percent of my foundation to NPF. Once I made the decision, the legal arrangements were easy to work out with my attorney. In fact, the actual task took minutes. By making a planned gift, I became a proud member of NPF's Legacy Society.

The decision makes me feel great. The money I've earned throughout my life is going to do something good that matters to me. It is deeply satisfying to know that even when I pass away, I will be improving the lives of people with Parkinson's.

In coming to my decision, I spoke with my family. They were all very supportive. My daughter said, "Dad, you made this money. So it should go to what's important to you."

Many people think they don't have the resources to make a planned gift, but in fact, they do. If you are considering making such a gift, there is nothing to be gained by delay. We are all mortal. Don't let it happen that you pass away before your wishes are known and many thousands of people are helped through your generosity.

My great wish is for others to follow my example and create a legacy that is meaningful because of what it is used to accomplish. There is no greater satisfaction.


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