A $2.7 million bequest – the largest single donation in the history of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County – allows the agency to expand its endowment tenfold from what it was four years ago.
The gift from the estate of the late Peggy Pierce Elfvin, widow of the late U.S. District Court Judge John T. Elfvin, was announced Wednesday and will enhance the sustainability of the 97-year-old agency, according to United Way President Michael Weiner.
“We are hopeful that this endowment and the draw we make off of the interest will allow us to expand our services ... which include education, income, health and wellness,” Weiner said.
The unrestricted gift will have a huge impact on the agency’s endowment fund, which is managed by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. When he took the helm of the United Way four years ago, Weiner said, the agency’s endowment fund was about $350,000 and has since been expanded to $1 million. With Elfvin’s gift, that figure will rise to $3.7 million.
“Our goal is to have an endowment of $20 million over the next five years,” Weiner said.
Meanwhile, he said, the 5 percent interest that the organization expects to draw on the endowment will be reinvested in the agency, helping to cover administrative and other overhead costs. As a result, a higher proportion of the donations the United Way receives will be used to support the more than 83 specific programs the agency helps fund.
“This gift is significant, and we hope it spurs on more planned giving in the community,” Weiner said.
The bequest is the second major gift from the estate of Peggy Elfvin, who died at age 90 in 2012. A month ago, it was announced that she left $11 million to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which is believed to be the largest single gift in the museum’s history.
In addition to being huge patrons of the arts, the Elfvins were among 90 members of the United Way’s Tocqueville Society, each of whom donated $10,000 or more annually to the agency.
Much of Peggy Elfvin’s wealth came from the estate of her father, who made his fortune in the asbestos industry, according to Robert J. Kresse, a Buffalo attorney and friend.
“Peggy was careful with her investments in life, and the distribution of her estate is a clear representation of her desire to make the most significant impact on our community,” Kresse said in a news release the United Way issued.
“She and Judge Elfvin believed in United Way’s ability to envision and implement change in our community, and this gift will help support that work in perpetuity – a deliberate legacy that will reap rewards long into the future,” Kresse added.
In addition to her financial support of and volunteer work for the United Way and the Albright-Knox, Elfvin also served on the Buffalo Philharmonic Executive Committee and was active with the Women’s Committee.