Making a Meaningful Gift

Heidkamp_Demers_8.23.23_01 (1)
previous arrow
next arrow


Joanne Heidkamp and Paul Demers moved to Vermont from Cincinnati in the mid-1990s and found a house in a quiet neighborhood in South Burlington. They felt a wonderful sense of community. “You can always borrow a tool, and you’re happy to feed someone’s cat. Outgrown clothes and toys are passed along from house to house. There’s been an annual block party for decades,” explained Joanne.

Over the years they made improvements to the home and realized that it would be an ideal location to age in place. “We can walk to the grocery store, and we can walk to the bus. And we trust that younger neighbors will check in on us, just as we have checked in with older people over the years,” Paul added.

In discussing their estate plan, they wondered if there was a way to give the next generation the same opportunity to make a home and build community.

They knew houses like theirs had become financially out of reach for younger families. A house on their street, while a little bit bigger, sold for more than $800,000.

“We didn’t want our home to be simply sold to the highest bidder. We know that a lot of places like ours are becoming vacation rental properties. Tourism is important, but if the people next door are visiting for a few days, they won’t sign up for a Red Cross blood drive, or serve on the Library Board, or coach youth soccer. We wanted our house to become an affordable home for someone who will be part of the community. That’s when we had the idea to donate through our estate plan,” said Paul.

The couple contacted Champlain Housing Trust, knowing the organization had a commitment to keeping housing affordable for the long-term. “We weren’t sure if our home would be a good fit for their program, but we decided that we wanted to see how we could help,” added Joanne. “We were thrilled that CHT could work with us to accomplish our goals.”

The couple also has their son to consider and wanted to balance providing an inheritance for him while satisfying their own desire to give back to the community.

After discussing their intentions with their son, they talked with CHT and an estate attorney, who drafted up the appropriate language to meet their dual goals. They then met with CHT staff to review the options and choose a path which best aligned with their values.

“Knowing our home might become affordable for a family starting out gives me peace of mind, and having it become perpetually affordable – that just made me feel good,” Joanne said. “I wouldn’t have ever thought we could make such a meaningful gift, but working with CHT made it so much easier.”

If you are interested in exploring including the Champlain Housing Trust in your estate planning, click here or email Chris Donnelly for more information.