Women's Stories  |  Community

What One Bequest Can Do!

Photograph of a group of ESPERA women from Nicaragua.

A heartfelt—if posthumous—thank you to Johanna Vanden Berg! Because of her bequest to Mary’s Pence earlier this year, we were able to move forward with a long-held dream: to help the women involved in our ESPERA loan pools improve the financial and marketing skills necessary to ensure the success of their small businesses.

Our ESPERA lending pools have enabled hundreds of women in Central America and Mexico to start small businesses, many for the first time and, therefore, to increase their family income. For some this means a more nutritious family diet; for others, the ability of children to attend school.

But the loan money is only the first step. Few of these women have any business experience; some are illiterate; most are unfamiliar with budgeting or a business plan. Our dream as a Mary’s Pence board has been to provide the critical next step: education and technical support for sustaining and growing their businesses.

Our board voted unanimously to use Johanna’s entire bequest to jumpstart this effort by paying the salary, travel and other costs associated with a new ESPERA Business Facilitator position for the first year.

We are confident that we will be able to sustain this effort over time through increased grants from ESPERA partners and increased support from Mary’s Pence supporters who believe the ESPERA initiative is a life-changing opportunity for the over 900 women involved to date. I know I believe this!

And Johanna must have believed it, too! Unfortunately Mary’s Pence knew very little about Johanna until her bequest arrived and we saw the obituary published by a Flushing, Mich., funeral home. Of Johanna and her previously deceased husband the obit said:

Jo and Bob lived a frugal life, faithful to God, church, and their family, but not everyone knew of their great compassion for the poor and downtrodden. Only at the time of Jo’s death did others learn that she and Bob had been quietly supporting nearly 40 charities. They truly lived what they believed.

We are so grateful—and humbled—to be one of those organizations.

I hope that others will consider remembering Mary’s Pence in their

will or estate plan once they realize what a bequest like Johanna’s can mean to Mary’s Pence and the women we serve. For more information about making a legacy gift, contact Mary’s Pence by phone (651-788-9869) or email (inbox@maryspence.org).

—Karen  Hurley, member of the Mary’s Pence Board

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