A mother's legacy

St. Jude donor Mary Jean Kinney

Jean Mary Kinney has supported St. Jude Children's Research Hospital since its beginning.

"I'm from Chicago, where Danny Thomas was well-known," she explains. "Back in the early 1960s, we heard about his plans. Then we heard he opened the hospital, and my mother said we should give money for it. Every year since the hospital opened, we gave. It wasn't a lot, but we gave every year."

As a tribute to her mother who was a steadfast supporter of St. Jude, Miss Kinney named the hospital as the beneficiary of her entire estate.

In 2012, Miss Kinney also established a charitable gift annuity with St. Jude, as another way to support the hospital's lifesaving work. "I had some stock that gave me an insecure feeling," she explained, "so I thought, Now's the time. It's all going to St. Jude anyway, so I sold the stock and established a CGA to avoid some major tax penalties."

Miss Kinney is very satisfied with her investment choice. "Interest rates are so poor, those of us on a fixed income have to be judicious," she says. "This provides a small extra source of income. And financially, it offers security—St. Jude has proven to be a stable, well run, business establishment."

The children of St. Jude remain close to Miss Kinney's heart. "I am a cancer survivor," she says. "I only have an inkling of the trauma for these children, and what their families are undergoing."

Until her retirement in 1987, Miss Kinney was a soybean buyer for a soybean processing company. "At the time there were only three women in the United States who had that type of employment," she explains.

Miss Kinney moved with her mother from Chicago to California in 1963 for her mother's health. "I was so homesick for Chicago that after Mother died I thought 'I no longer have connections here,' so I went back," she said. "But after about 10 minutes my mind was made up—I came right back to California!"

The nonagenarian now lives in a retirement community. She was very involved in volunteer work until a few years ago, when her health prevented her continued participation. Though her mobility is limited now, she continues to support St. Jude and encourages others to do the same, "because of the importance of the work it does."

To others who might be considering establishing a CGA, Miss Kinney has one simple thing to say: "It's putting dollars to work in a beautiful way."