Tending to her family's legacy

Mary Theresa Stengel

Mary Theresa Stengel

Mary Theresa Stengel

Mary Theresa Stengel learned philanthropy at her grandmother's knee—literally. "My grandmother would lay out seven envelopes each week, put a dollar in each one and give them to different charities," Mary Theresa says. She continues the family tradition of philanthropy, but gives only to one charity: Americares.

"I was studying for my master's degree, researching social justice, and realized that the most efficient organization should get the lion's share of the resources," Mary Theresa says. "Americares gets the most important work done with the most efficiency—you can't get better than that."

Mary Theresa follows her mother's footsteps also. A life-long resident of Buffalo, NY, Mary Theresa went to the same grade school, high school and undergraduate college as her mother. With a bachelor's degree in journalism and a Master of Science in the study of creativity, Mary Theresa had a career in public service, working at local charities including the United Way. She still lives in Buffalo, caring for the house her mother grew up in and also for the inheritance her parents left to her. "I'm familiar with every dollar my parents saved," Mary Theresa says, remembering that in her family, money was for saving, not spending. "I don't have any dependents and I want to do the most good with our assets."

Mary Theresa has made Americares the sole beneficiary of her estate. "I look at my estate as already belonging to Americares—I just tend to it," she says. She is certain that in Americares' hands, each dollar will do the most good. Says Mary Theresa, "This is the legacy my parents built and I want to do the best with it."

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