What are the things that matter the most to you? This was one of the questions I asked myself as I worked on my planned giving arrangements several years ago. For me, the answer was easy.
Over 175 years ago, my great-great-grandparents, Mark and Guadalupe West, settled in Sonoma County. Today, Sonoma County Regional Parks is preparing to open a new park bearing Mark West’s name. I wanted to be part of his legacy. Designating a bequest in my will for this park through the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation will undoubtedly enhance this property for future generations.
Sonoma County Regional Parks are essential to the quality of life in our community. Our parks provide convenient locations for outdoor recreation; they bring us close to the beauty of our open spaces and improve our health. Our parks give us places to gather with family, making memories for a lifetime. And our parks not only benefit the human residents of Sonoma County, but also provide critical wildlife habitat.
I started this post by asking, "What matters the most to you?" Here’s what matters to me. I want to ensure that this land – land that was precious to my great-great-grandparents, just as it's now precious to me – will continue to thrive for generations to come. I want to know that decades from today, my granddaughter can bring her granddaughter to her favorite regional park to play, hike, and scan the horizon for turkey vultures.
You likely have your own special memories of these beloved places. I hope you'll join me in the Parks Foundation Legacy Society. Together we can ensure that Sonoma County’s outdoor treasures will be protected – today and for generations to come.
In 2019, for the first time in our history, the Parks Foundation received a donation of property to sell and benefit Regional Parks.
As a young couple in the 1970s, Victoria White Hand and Skip Hand lived in Berkeley, but they longed to come to Sonoma County. "We wanted to be dirt farmers," Victoria explained. Eventually they purchased a charming little farmhouse in Sebastopol where they raised chickens, ducks, geese, sheep and all kinds of produce.
Skip and Victoria lived in their quaint farmhouse for 40 years. When the time came to think about their legacy, they looked with fondness at their property in rural Sebastopol and thought of how it reminded them of a park. As Skip and Victoria wrote their trust, they decided they wanted their property to benefit Sonoma County Regional Parks.
In August 2017, Skip passed away. The next year, Victoria's trust officer, Andriy Lesyshyn of Exchange Bank's Trust & Investment Management Department, reached out to our nonprofit Parks Foundation to fulfill Skip's wishes.
The property sits less than a mile from Occidental Road, in a neighborhood where the West County Trail is simply a bicycle lane on the road's shoulder. Currently, cyclists and pedestrians must carefully share a space with cars passing at 50 mph.
In the coming years, the gift from the White-Hand Family Trust will be combined with other funding, making it possible to construct a safe, 8-foot-wide extension of the West County Trail from Highway 116 to Atascadero Creek. Because of Skip and Victoria's foresight, their property has become a transformational gift that will benefit neighbors and the community at large for generations to come.
If you would like to discuss a potential legacy gift to the Parks Foundation, please reach out to Executive Director Melissa Kelley at 707-565-1830 or email@example.com.