Melvin Brown on mountain with sunset in the background

Melvin Brown

Melvin Brown lived on his own for nearly 4 decades, but he was rarely alone – his life was rich with friends and animal companions alike. When he passed away, he donated nearly $170,000 to a fund that will forever benefit the local causes that mattered to him the most.

In Cayuga and western Onondaga counties, children will have additional reading opportunities, more stray animals will find safe shelter and happy homes and residents will enjoy a vibrant parade. All of this is thanks to the new Melvin E. Brown Fund, which was established by its namesake, a long-time Village of Jordan resident. It specifically benefits the Finger Lakes SPCA of CNY, Jordan Bramley Library and the Village of Jordan’s Memorial Day Parade.

“Mel was a strong-willed, reserved gentleman who enjoyed spending time with his good friends and neighbors,” said Linda Carr, a friend to Brown. “It was his wish to leave a gift to be enjoyed by deserving organizations in his community that meant so much to him. The generous legacy of this quiet, unassuming gentleman will enable his memory to live on in the organizations he held near and dear to his heart.”

Many say everything happens for a reason. In the 1970s, Brown was on a quiet walk down Main Street in Jordan when he stumbled upon a house for sale that caught his eye. It would soon become his own, setting him on a path towards a life-long residency in the quaint little village where he made countless friends and memories.

In 1981, Brown was hired as the Director of Human Resources at Cayuga Community College (CCC), where he remained until his retirement in 2010. Over the course of his tenure, he served many positions for the college including as its Director of International Education, which involved overseeing students who wanted to complete a semester or year abroad.

When he wasn’t working, he spent most of his time in Jordan, either at his home or volunteering in the community. One could often find Brown meticulously tending to his landscaping and gardens, in which he took great pride. He was also very dedicated to his cats, always making sure that they were well cared for. His large side porch had dishes of cat food and water for his own pets, but they were also available for any cats that might be looking for a nice place to call home. In honor of his love of animals, the Finger Lakes SPCA of CNY will be receiving annual grant distributions from Brown’s fund.

Brown volunteered for many years with the Jordan Fall Festival, was a member of the Jordan Masonic Lodge and served as a trustee on the Jordan Village Board. He was also interested in the well-being of his neighbors. Many times, they would stop by his house and chat about what was going on in the village. His love of the village inspired Brown to include the Jordan Bramley Library and the village’s Memorial Day Parade as beneficiaries of annual support.

With the help of his attorney and friend, Ken Bush, Brown designated that a portion of his estate be donated to us to establish a fund in his name after his death. According to Bush, Brown wished to leave a legacy to enable the charities he assigned as beneficiaries of his fund to benefit from his gift after his passing.

Brown’s fund will begin sending annual support to the three charities this year. Endowment funds are designed to benefit the community in perpetuity. In the case of designated funds, we use a percentage of the fund each year to award grants to nonprofits named by the donor. The remaining fund balance is invested, growing to keep up with inflation to increase the annual spendable allowance. Over time, the cumulative amount of grants awarded is expected to surpass the original gift used to seed the fund.

“The power of endowment takes the generosity of amazing people like Melvin and ensures that their charitable wishes persevere through generations,” said Jennifer Owens, former senior vice president and chief development officer at the Community Foundation. “Mel had an interest in giving back to the community he loved and he put a plan in place to make it happen. We’re honored to be the stewards of his community legacy.”

Through an ongoing campaign called 5forCNY, we call on residents to consider leaving a portion of their estates to its endowment to ensure the continued support of local charities, just as Brown did. Nearly $22 billion in wealth is expected to change hands from one generation to the next in Central New York over the next few years, according to a study we commissioned. With increased mobility of heirs, this could result in fewer dollars remaining in our community – charitable or otherwise.

“People like Mel put their faith in our ability to honor their charitable intentions,” said Owens. “If others who also love Central New York set aside a portion of their estate for charity, we could greatly improve our region for generations.”

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