The architecture of planned giving

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Patricia Fontaine comes from a line of people interested in buildings – her grandfather was a master carpenter and her father was a building contractor, so she spent weekends as a kid tagging along to look at buildings her dad was working on.

As an adult, she became active in the social justice community in Burlington and found the Burlington Community Land Trust, which is now the Champlain Housing Trust, in the 1990s.

“It just spoke to my heart and my heritage. I knew friends who were struggling with housing,” she explains, so she became a supporter and advocate.

In 1998, when Patricia was re-diagnosed with breast cancer, she began to think seriously about putting her affairs in order.

“We cooked up the scheme to give my house to the land trust,” she says, adding that since she has no children and feels her siblings are well taken care of, it felt like “a simple, elegant and easy solution to an asset that can be really complicated. … It really put my mind at ease.”

She says that because she has left her house to CHT in her will, she expects that the organization will take her asset and sell it, using the proceeds to offer affordable housing and programs for families in the community.

Since writing her will in 1998, Patricia has changed houses – she now lives in Shelburne – and pursued a new career path, teaching healing art and writing to other cancer survivors and those who are “willing to learn to meet illness.”

“Life is really precious,” she says. She talks about both living and dying well, and how important it is to think about what happens after our death. For those who would like to explore those themes, Patricia recommends the Wake Up to Dying project and her web site

Over the years, she has watched as CHT has grown, merged and expanded so that now more than 6,000 people go to bed each night in a CHT home.

Despite CHT’s size, Patricia credits staff with continuing to “listen carefully to the needs of the community and meet those needs – and housing is pretty critical.”

Social justice has been her life’s work, and her generosity ensures that this work will continue.

Leaving your home to CHT is one of many ways you can support affordable housing in your estate. To learn more about other options, please contact Chris Donnelly at 862-6244.