Funeral Director Leaves Funeral Business to Community Via a Trust

December 7, 2010
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imageThe Legacy Funeral Trust has distributed $550,000 to the Western Bay community since it was established three years ago and the amount donated is set to rise dramatically.

The trust was established in 2007 when former Tauranga City councillor Greg Brownless donated his funeral business to the community via a trust.

Trust director Kevin Wearne said the trust had given away $250,000 annually.

But that figure looks set to rise to $400,000, when the trust has finished debt repayments on a loan, which had paid for new equipment and maintenance.

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“By this time next year that debt will have been paid, so the trust will be giving a minimum of $400,000 to charity,” Mr Wearne said. In 2007 Legacy Funerals was valued at $1.2 million but the business was now estimated at being worth at least $2.5 million. All profits from the funeral business are returned to the community.

Legacy has also recently acquired Todd Gower Funeral Services – and that “significant” acquisition is not included in the valuation or donation projections.

While the trust currently leases land from Mr Brownless, it will become the property of the trust after Mr Brownless’ death – freeing up another $250,000 a year for donations.

The newly established pre-paid funeral service will also boost the coffers – all interest earned on each deposit will go to charity.

Mr Wearne said the Legacy Trust was now one of the biggest charitable trusts in the area, smaller than only TECT and the Bay of Plenty Community Trust.

Funding has been gifted to more than 100 organisations as diverse as schools, churches, Waipuna Hospice, Surf Life Saving, TECT Rescue Helicopter, cultural and health groups.

There is no formal process for funding applications – recommendations come from both supporters of the trust and the community.

Funding is given out continuously throughout the year.

“We try to keep a bit of cash so if there’s a request we like, we can do it straight away,” Mr Wearne said.

Funeral director and general manager Mike Savage said customers were becoming increasingly aware that by using Legacy Funerals, they were also helping the community.

“Now it’s been three years, it’s coming into recognition that we have heard about the trust.”

But the business is careful not to use the trust as a marketing tool, or undercut other funeral homes. The business pays market rent and is priced in the same bracket as other providers.

Administration manager Kiri Randall said it was essential the business provided a good service in order for the trust to function.

“We do what we do because we want do it really well; we want to provide a good service. But the cherry on top is we will give the profit away,” she said.

Source: BayofPlentyTimes.co.nz

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