The Essex County Community Foundation announced today that it is the beneficiary of an approximately $18 million bequest – the largest gift ever received by the Foundation – from the estate of the late R. Kingman “King” Webster, a former Lawrence businessman and philanthropist.
Webster, who passed away late last year, left behind a legacy of giving, which was largely focused on providing Lawrence youth with educational opportunities.
“For King, it was about so much more than writing a check,” said Julie Bishop, ECCF’s vice president for philanthropy. “He wanted to know about these kids. He took them on field trips to broaden their experiences. He guided and mentored them and sometimes even helped with homework.”
“He was a special man with a caring heart and the fact that his generous spirit will live on is a real testament to his personal beliefs,” she added.
While the gift to the Foundation is unrestricted, ECCF’s Board of Trustees will honor King Webster’s intent to provide scholarships for graduates of the Community Day Charter School in Lawrence, and to support other nonprofits in the Greater Lawrence area that work to improve the lives of young people, said ECCF’s President and CEO, Dave Edwards.
“King truly believed in the power of education, that it could help lift at-risk youth from poverty and provide them with a new path to success,” said King’s wife, Dee Webster, who worked alongside King in his philanthropic efforts for many years. “I am so honored to have been a part of the positive influence he had on so many children and look forward to seeing his legacy live on through ECCF.”
“King’s bequest to ECCF is a terrific example of the way philanthropists can ensure the durability of their philanthropy after their passing,” said Edwards. “A community foundation is designed to exist in perpetuity, and we provide guidance in choosing worthy nonprofits and grantmaking services that alleviate the administrative burden for family members who are honoring the charitable legacy of their loved one.”
ECCF is fortunate to have worked with the Webster family for some time, said ECCF Board Chair Jon Payson. “Over the years, we really got to know King and his family’s philanthropic passions,” he said. “We are grateful that King entrusted the Foundation with these funds to continue to have an impact on our local communities and the causes he cared so much about.”
While the Kingman Webster bequest is the largest ever received by ECCF, it will be directed to support nonprofits that aligned with King’s interests. ECCF will continue to rely heavily on sustained support from current and future donors to advance its work in strengthening the 34 cities and towns of Essex County.
Essex County Community Foundation now manages 180 charitable funds and since its inception in 1998, has awarded over $38 million to support philanthropic activities focusing on improving the lives of all people who live, work and raise their families in our region.
“The way we do that is through the generosity of people like the Webster family and so many others who care about their communities,” said ECCF Vice President for Development Beth Francis. “It is often said that charity starts at home, and ‘giving where you live,’ is many times the most meaningful way to make a real impact.”