Paying It Forward
There’s an old adage Sioux Falls native Steve Lynch has always been fond of.
“‘Much is expected from those to whom much has been given,’” he said. “I’ve been blessed throughout my life, so I want to use my blessings to help others.”
Blessed, indeed. In some ways, Lynch’s life story reads like an adventure novel whose main character defies the odds again and again, overcoming unthinkable challenges and persevering through adversity.
Born three months premature in 1946, doctors didn’t expect Lynch to survive. He weighed just three pounds at birth and his parents already had nine other children to care for at home. The name on his birth certificate read “Unknown Lynch.”
He went on to serve in an infantry unit during the Vietnam War. After returning home, he and his wife, Roxanne, went on to have three children.
Eleven years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors told him he had, at best, five years to live. “At that point, I sort of started ‘cramming for my finals,’” he said. “I decided I wanted to be a better person. I started going to mass each day, volunteering more and giving back more.”
Five years ago, Steve and Roxanne made the decision to open a donor advised fund at the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation as a way to streamline their charitable giving and maximize philanthropic tax advantages.
Mary Kolsrud serves as the Community Foundation’s vice president for philanthropy. She said the advantages offered by donor advised funds are many, but most significant is that, because donor advised funds are administered by the Foundation, donors receive the full tax benefit when they contribute to the fund.
“For those wanting to optimize tax benefits, or for those who find themselves in a financial windfall, either from the sale of a business, year-end bonus, or other situation, donor advised funds work well because they offer tax advantages and the flexibility to delay decisions on where to direct charitable gifts in order to develop a more strategic and impactful strategy over time,” she said.
“I would recommend the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation to anyone – it’s such a great way to give. We started our donor advised fund with a sizable contribution that was advantageous at the time from a tax standpoint. From there, we’ve been able to give to our favorite charities and causes over time when and where it’s made sense.”Steve Lynch
Over the last year especially, the Lynches have put their donor advised fund to good use – directing gifts from their fund to help restore a local church following a devastating fire and, most recently, to help provide food and necessities to families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
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It was Dec. 19, 2018, when a fire broke out at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in northern Sioux Falls. Officials said candles on a shrine established for feast day likely sparked the fire, which quickly climbed a wall and stretched into the ceiling. Fire fighters responded quickly, soaking the nearly 90-year-old church with water, ripping apart plaster and dousing insulation to extinguish the fire in record time.
When it was over, the church remained intact, but its sanctuary was badly damaged.
Shortly thereafter, Lynch ran into Father Kristopher James Cowles from Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“I saw Father Cowles at mass one day and told him how bad I felt about the fire,” he said. “I asked if there was anything we could do. He said anything would be appreciated so I called down to the Foundation (to transfer a gift from our fund to the church).”
“Later, we got a letter from Father Cowles thanking us,” Lynch said. “The letter said Our Lady of Guadalupe now considers us a member of their family. That made us feel so good. That’s the joy of giving.”
Last month, as the coronavirus pandemic swept throughout the globe, the Lynches felt called to support the Corona Help Sioux Falls Fund, an effort organized by a coalition of local churches to provide food and necessities to those impacted by COVID-19.
With social distancing in place, the Lynches were still able to offer their support. From the safety of their home, they used Online Access to transfer a gift from their donor advised fund to the Corona Help Sioux Falls Fund.
“My mom always said, ‘when you kiss a dollar, it doesn’t kiss you back,’” Steve said. “I was the tenth of 11 kids. We lived in a three-bedroom house with a dirt-floor basement. We grew up poor but never knew it because my parents were incredibly giving. They inspired me so much and everything I am today, everything I’ve done, I attribute to them.”
“I’ve always looked at it like this: Everything I have is a gift, so I might as well share it,” Lynch said.
Kolsrud said the Lynches are a great example of how a spirit of care and a commitment to giving back can strengthen our community.
“Steve and Roxanne Lynch are truly a community-minded couple whose generosity knows no ends,” Kolsrud said. “Through the years, their gifts have provided support to vital nonprofits, helped our community in times of crisis, and have enhanced the vibrancy of the area we all call home. We are inspired by their selflessness and we are incredibly grateful for their support.”