The legacy we will leave behind says much about the lives we lived. For Margot Dorn Dutcher, that legacy is rooted in family and a deep love of the community she called home since the early 1970s.
Margot’s daughters, Kate Phillips and Nancy Szejbach, say their mother had a great sense of adventure, unconditional love for her family, and a strong desire to serve others. Those qualities spilled over into her charitable giving during and after her lifetime. Margot passed away in September 2015, and wanted to leave a legacy for the community she cherished. In 2016, the Community Foundation received word that it was the beneficiary of a significant bequest from Margot’s estate to establish the Margot Dorn Dutcher Fund. It was her wish that Kate and Nancy oversee the charitable distributions from this donor-advised fund. The first grant was given to Besser Museum of Northeast Michigan for its Katherine V restoration project.
“She would say to me, ‘when I’m gone, I’m gone, and you can do anything you want to do’,” said Kate of conversations with her mother about her estate. “But she always said she hoped it would be used to take care of her loved ones, and to support organizations that were important to the community.”
While Margot wanted her charitable gifts to support her communities, she also hoped to encourage others to leave similar gifts, and to be an example of how planned giving and its potential tax benefits can help family and the community.
“So many times you can give a gift in your estate, and it can actually benefit your heirs more than if you left everything to them,” said Kate. “My mom really wanted others to understand the full benefits of planned giving."
Within her community, she was active with the League of Women’s Voters, the Thunder Bay Lighthouse Society and Friends of the Library. A proud feminist, she believed in teaching young girls to become strong women, and in teaching young boys to become respectful men. These beliefs also served as the catalyst for a charitable gift to the Community Foundation’s Northeast Michigan Women’s Giving Circle (WGC), of which she became a Diamond-level member in 2011.
“I remember the day Margot came in to make a rather large donation to the Women’s Giving Circle,” said CFNEM Program Director Julie Wiesen. “When I was able to speak with her and thank her personally for the donation, I just had to ask why she chose the Women’s Giving Circle. She said she believes in the power of women and the causes that impact them. She said, ‘There are a lot of women in my family, so I follow women’s issues very closely.’”
Nancy says Margot chose to leave a significant portion of her estate to the Community Foundation because of her confidence in the organization.
“She knew the Community Foundation has a great track record in caring for the community’s assets,” said Nancy. “She liked that the money she left could be filtered to many other nonprofits to make an impact.”
Margot also left a portion of her estate to the League of Women’s Voters and Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, and to Alpena Community College for annual scholarships that will be awarded for years to come.
Creating a legacy that will surely benefit the community and its various agencies is both inspirational and remarkable. It is a testament to the power of a charitable mind, and the love of family and community.