The Pathway to Giving: Virginia Stanton Smith
Virginia Stanton Smith knows a good thing when she sees it. Since 1984, this volunteer extraordinaire has been practicing law, raising three daughters and vigorously serving her Berkshire County community far and wide through her board and committee work with such entities as Hancock Shaker Village, Berkshire Fund, Berkshire Health Systems, Berkshire United Way, The Brien Center, The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, Massachusetts Audubon Society and Elder Services of Berkshire County. Smith was also a BTCF board member for seven years, and knows quite well the importance of giving back– time, money, energy, love – to her tight-knit community.
“Our Berkshire region is unique,” says Smith, who lives and works in Pittsfield. “We have an abundance of nonprofits in this region, twice as many as the national average, and perhaps because we are made up of so many small villages and towns, there is a level of caring about each other that is quite remarkable. Because we are rural there is a greater desire to see money going back to those in our community who need it most.”
Smith loves this region and, like many of its residents and visitors, only wants to make it better. As an attorney specializing in estate planning and estate administration, she is in a perfect position to guide her clients in their decisions for the future and she is a natural friend to Berkshire Taconic, where she leads many generous donors.
“If they want to give $50,000 to Williams College they don’t need a community foundation,” Smith says. “But when a client says 'I’m interested in projects for the homeless in Berkshire County,' I say ‘let’s think about how you might do this. You can set up a fund to pay for a program. Use the judgment of BTCF to give to an appropriate recipient every year. You know that even if the group you favor goes under, your funds will serve that cause in perpetuity.'”
Leaving a lasting legacy is what Smith and many of her clients are passionate about. She first connected with the Foundation nearly 25 years ago, right as it was taking off. At the time, community funds were a fairly new concept, but as an estate planner, Smith saw the great wealth of opportunity that would arise from it, both for those in need and those wanting to give. The years progressed and the reach of the Foundation now extends to schools, nature conservancies, individuals and institutions. As a result of this dedication, Smith's confidence is unshakeable, a feeling she passes on to her clients.
“Because there are so many small charities in Berkshire county” she says, “often you are better off leaving your money to BTCF. It will be well invested, in ways a small non-profit cannot match. For a family to start and manage their own fund would be a huge hassle, but they can come to BTCF and the Foundation will organize a fund according to their mission. This is a form of deliberate giving.”
Whether it is parents looking to memorialize their son through donating to at risk youth services, a heartfelt animal lover hoping to make a difference at a local shelter, or a successful retired executive wanting to leave a lasting legacy to her community, there is no end to the types of funds and opportunities for giving, and Smith knows that. She has had several clients over the years who have put their trust in her and in Berkshire Taconic, knowing that the Foundation is committed to seeing out their vision for a better community. That trust is an integral part of the past, present and future of the Foundation.
“Berkshire Taconic provides just the right vehicle to provide for their favorite causes in perpetuity,” Smith says. “BTCF helps donors articulate their goals, then makes it easy by customizing a fund to the client's wishes. The Foundation is a deep and knowledgeable resource."
About Virginia Stanton Smith
Virginia Smith is a partner with the law firm Parese, Sabin, Smith & Gold, LLP based in Pittsfield and Williamstown, MA. She specializes in estate planning, estate administration and real estate law. She is a member of the steering committee of the Berkshire County Estate Planning Council and is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, as well as the Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts. She has lectured and written about various aspects of estate planning and has served on many boards and committees of not for profit organizations in the Berkshire area.