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Estate gift benefits local HIV/AIDS organizations
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Estate gift benefits local HIV/AIDS organizations

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Last November, Pride Foundation received a significant bequest of $300,000 from the estate of Richard Cornwell. Cornwell, a pianist and KOMO4 broadcaster, had passed away at 75. He dedicated one fifth of his estate to Pride Foundation with the request that the money be given to HIV/AIDS organizations.

"Mr. Cornwell heard about Pride Foundation through his estate planning attorney," Zan McColloch-Lussier, Pride Foundation director of communications, told SGN. "After Mr. Cornwell passed away, his attorney contacted us to let us know of his bequest."

Pride Foundation officials say the organization's board of directors and staff were honored by Cornwell's trust and inspired by his generosity.

"Mr. Cornwell's estate gift is an amazing example of an authentic legacy gift," said Audrey Haberman, executive director of Pride Foundation. "We are honored to be a part of his charitable wishes and we are fortunate to be able to fulfill his specific request to support critical HIV/AIDS services."

Eager to put his funding right to work, Pride Foundation board of directors got together and selected 27 organizations to benefit from Cornwell's gift. In December, they awarded approximately $250,000 to the different HIV/AIDS organizations throughout Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The remaining funds will be distributed in 2010.

According to McColloch-Lussier, the 27 HIV/AIDS organizations received varying amounts based on the size of their current expense budgets.

"I was ecstatic," said Liz Murphy, executive director of the Missoula AIDS Council. "The news came right before World AIDS Day, at a time when we were spending money and wising we had more to spend on a great cause."

During these tough economic times, many organizations have been forced to lay off staff members or offer fewer services to their clients. In many ways, Cornwall's gift gave a boost to these organizations when they really needed it.

"We are so thankful to have a truly working relationship with the Pride Foundation," said Scott Bertani, assistant director of Evergreen AIDS Foundation (EAF) of Bellingham. "So often, in rural communities like ours, there is a scarcity of openly LGBTQ-supportive agencies around, and to find both Pride and EAF in the same region - working in tandem on similar issues - is not only encouraging, but instrumental towards fulfilling the promises we made to our communities so long ago. Promises like solving stigma, discriminations and inequality."

McColloch-Lussier said the Pride Foundation's only wish was that they had gotten to know Cornwell before he died. "Right now, Pride Foundation knows about hundreds of people who have left us in their estate plans," he said, "We really like to have conversations with people to find out what their charitable goals are and to figure out the best ways to meet those goals."

Anyone can make an estate gift to Pride Foundation, and it is much easier than many people assume it is, McColloch-Lussier said. "Our staff is happy to talk with people about how they, too, can make a gift to our community."

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