• March 30, 2020

Gift stuns local nonprofits - Odessa American: Local News

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Gift stuns local nonprofits

Koonce leaves lasting legacy to local organizations

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  • Transformational Donation

    Ron Kirby talks about Elizabeth N. Koonce next to a photograph of Koonce and her dog Charlie at a press conference Friday to announce an initial gift from the estate of Elizabeth N. Koonce. The University of Texas Permian Basin, Odessa College, Humane Society of Odessa, West Texas Food Bank, and the Education Foundation are each to receive 20% of the estate. Ron Kirby, CPA, is overseeing the distributions from the estate.

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2020 3:03 pm

Five West Texas organizations received an initial gift from the estate of Elizabeth N. Koonce that executives with those agencies said could be transformational.

Organizations named as beneficiaries to the estate are the University of Texas Permian Basin, Odessa College, Humane Society of Odessa, West Texas Food Bank and the Education Foundation. Each organization is set to receive 20 percent of the residue of the estate. Ron Kirby, certified public accountant, is overseeing the distributions from the estate.

A news conference detailing the bequests was held at the West Texas Food Bank Friday with representatives from all the beneficiaries in attendance.

Koonce was married to the late Jesse Leon Koonce and she worked as an executive assistant for Exxon Mobile for many years and had a passion for dogs, especially her pug, Charlie, who has found a new home thanks to the Humane Society of Odessa Inc., according to information from the news conference. Koonce (Sept. 14, 1926-Dec. 10, 2019) was very shy, had a contagious chuckle and loved antiques, clothes and shoes, the information said.

Kirby, who spoke at the conference his voice often breaking, said each organization would receive $500,000 Friday.

“We think her assets are going to be around $20 million …,” Kirby said.

He added that there were other people in the will and the organizations and institutions of higher learning are going to receive another $1.5 million each and will hit at least $2 million. The taxes have yet to be figured out, but Kirby said that will likely happen soon.

Yollie Wilkins was a friend of Koonce’s. She said Koonce was extremely shy, but she was fun in a lot of ways. She testified to Koonce’s love of shopping and said she once bought a red mink and periwinkle blue beaver coat and ultimately gave the periwinkle blue one to Wilkins.

Wilkins said Koonce also loved to read and doesn’t know how many dogs she had in her life.

“Elizabeth was a wonderful person and I think anyone who loves animals has such a kind heart. She was a great person …,” Wilkins said.

Kirby said this is going to be an exciting time for the beneficiaries and people should know that they can leave a legacy to a nonprofit. He added that it can be a game-changer.

West Texas Food Bank Executive Director Libby Campbell said the funds will be used to sustain the food bank’s operations.

“We have been here 35 years, so we want to make sure that the food bank continues to be part of the Permian Basin for the next 35 years,” Campbell said.

She added that they want to pay a special tribute to Koonce by using part of the money to sustain its senior box program.

“The program will be named in her honor,” Campbell said. “The reason why we really chose that program is because we do work closely with the Humane Society and Meals on Wheels and those different organizations that help deliver food to the elderly with dog food and pet supplies. Whenever we get a donation from Dollar General, or Walmart, or Petco, or PetSmart, we actually can receive dog food and so we actually partner with those organizations with our elderly clients to help deliver the dog food and also food to help sustain them.”

She said that would be a perfect fit for Koonce, her love for Charlie and the Humane Society and all of her puppies that she’s had throughout her life.

When she learned about the bequest, Campbell said she was incredulous.

“It was definitely a moment of shock and tears to think that someone has that much faith in our mission every day and what we do … to want to leave their legacy with us and then also to be with four other amazing nonprofit organizations within our community, to be with them and know that she valued what we did that much and really wanted to see us continue to succeed. It’s an emotional experience,” Campbell said.

Deann Wilson, board president of the Humane Society of Odessa, said they are going to get some investment people to talk to them about how to use the funds. “Eventually, hopefully, we can get our place fixed up or move to a new place with some help …,” Wilson said.

She added that the society counts on donations from the community.

Tatum Hubbard, chief of staff/executive director of communication at UTPB, said the funds will be endowed scholarships for students.

“We’re excited about how many students will be able to pursue their college education, thanks to her generosity,” Hubbard said in a text message.

OC President Gregory Williams said people will soon hear about their plans for the donation and he said they think it can be really transformative.

Williams said the funding will allow OC to do something special.

“What we must do as nonprofit entities is to provide a resource to you as community members that you can be proud of. You pay us your tax dollars and you give us your support. We should have programs that make you proud, make you enthused so you see that we are a good, positive quality investment and that’s what we stand for at Odessa College,” Williams said. “We’re proud of that and we know that we have to do more to continue to earn your respect each and every day.”

Williams said this is another example of Odessa coming together to support itself and build its future together.

Lorraine Perryman, founder of the Education Foundation, said a committee of past presidents has been formed to brainstorm about what to do with the donation. The past presidents, and the current one, know the history from the beginning and “… know the impact that we can make,” she said.

She gave the example of bringing AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) to ECISD, which Perryman said has been transformative. The foundation also has spent money on research to help start “turning that ship at the school district around.”

“And the end result of that is that we have a wonderful, new superintendent is with us today, Dr. Scott Muri. So we as former presidents, and myself as the founder of the Education Foundation, we want this money to be transformative just like Greg said, for ECISD. We are not jumping into anything. We are going to study this and that past presidents council, including our current president, will bring a recommendation to the Education Foundation board, about how we want to proceed. But what we are talking about for the Education Foundation is the next big … fabulous idea that will help our school district transform itself and impact every child in this community and enhance their future …,” Perryman said.

“Our two higher education institutions are the next step in building Odessa’s future after ECISD and we want to help the school district do a better job getting those students to you so that they can succeed in higher education and we have better outcomes for our kids, for their lives that will transform all of their families’ lives and our entire community,” Perryman said.

She added that the Education Foundation will celebrate 20 years in May.

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