Charitable gift annuities benefit donors now, Baltimore’s children forever

August 08, 2017

“When my husband Sidney and I thought about charity, it wasn’t whether or not we should give, but how, when, to whom, and how much,” observed Jean Silber, reflecting on a pattern of giving that she and her late husband Sidney established. “We felt blessed that we could well afford to give and often admonished ourselves that we might not have been generous enough.”

Few would agree with that, as the Silbers were involved in charitable work in the Baltimore community for many years and Jean continues this tradition. Their relationship with the Baltimore Community Foundation dates back to 1991, when they gave their first gift through their family fund, the Silber Foundation directing annual gifts to the BCF Children and Families Fund, a field-of-interest fund that has supported grants for a range of programs, from early childhood development to after-school programs for middle-school students to a grantmaking program run by teens.

The Benefits of Annuities

“Initially, we began to think about establishing gifts in our wills,” Jean recalls. “But those gifts could be subject to change. Outright gifts of cash or equities of a substantial size also gave us some pause. But we have found the perfect solution in charitable gift annuities.”

Both Sidney and Jean established charitable gift annuities in their names, and they felt the advantages are significant. Through a simple contract with BCF, they made a permanent gift to help build BCF’s endowment for children and youth. In turn, they receive a fixed income for life.

“Our financial status during our lifetime was not diminished but actually improved,” Jean observes. “The income provided from the annuity is far greater than any we might receive from either a taxable or tax-free bond. Since Sidney was 88 when we established these annuities, his annual income from the annuity was 10.5 percent, substantially tax-free. An annuity established for me at age 75 gave me an annual income of 7.5 percent—still far better than a bond and not subject to the vagaries of the stock market. We felt this was the right choice for us—giving to the charity of our choice, receiving an income for life, and receiving a charitable tax deduction at the time the annuity was established, all in full compliance with federal tax law.”  

The Silbers were pleased that this form of giving created a charitable legacy that will benefit BCF and the programs it supports in their areas of interest. “They know better than we do where the need is,” Jean says. “It’s as simple as that.”

Choosing a Charity

The Silbers recalled first learning about BCF in a Sunpapers article and asking Sandy Hess, their friend and a BCF board member, about the organization. In addition to the Associated Jewish Charities and their alma maters, MIT and Goucher College, they added the Baltimore Community Foundation to their list of preferred charities.

“BCF sometimes has presentations about local programs, and they are very illuminating,” Jean says. “We’ve also had conversations with Sue Cohen, who chaired BCF’s Children and Families Committee for many years. We were always impressed with the ideas developed by her committee, especially the initiatives for teen support. So many programs are worthwhile, but some areas seem more critical than others. Middle school is such a tough age, even high school, and those children are often overlooked. We particularly like the after-school programs, like A-teams, which give the young people something challenging and fun to do. We focus basically on children and education and people who are in need.”

“Charitable gift annuities are now our major form of giving,” Jean says. “We have one final hope that, if we are no longer in need of the income from the annuity, we can advise BCF to enjoy the funds as an outright gift. We feel fortunate that the Baltimore Community Foundation is here to perform the wonderful services they do, which enables us to reach those in need.”

Creating Goodness and Beauty 

The Silbers’ approach to charitable giving reflected in other aspects of their lives. While Jean now lives at Roland Park Place, the large windows of the Greenspring Valley home where she and Sidney lived most of their lives, opened onto exquisite gardens the couple carefully nurtured for 45 years. Their hard work, dedication, and artistry were recognized when the Smithsonian approached them about listing the garden in its Archives of American Gardens. 

The Silber name, however, is probably most familiar to Baltimore residents who recall the Silber Bakeries. My father-in-law started the business in 1908,” Jean says. “Of his eight children, only Sidney’s younger brother was eager to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, he was killed in the war, so after the war, Sidney chose to run it for 16 years.”

Jean remembers how Sidney loved to describe the chocolate-topped vanilla wafer cookies that were a favorite with the children and the rainbow cake, chocolate-frosted half-inch slices of pound cake with colorful jelly between each layer.  He also enjoyed describing the signature rye bread, a “pure, old-fashioned product made from natural sourdough without any yeast” that took 12 to 18 hours to develop before being baked on a hearth.

“There were no secret formulas,” he would always insist, Jean remembered fondly. “All you have to do,” he would say, “is start with very good ingredients—the best butter, the best jellies, the best chocolate—and with careful handling, you come out with a good product.”

It’s a formula that the Silbers have also applied to their relationship with BCF—thoughtfully selected assets entrusted to a skillful caretaker. “Clearly,” says Jean, “you have to find an organization you believe in, one that is going to be very wise and careful with a person’s money, one that shares your philosophy and values. That’s how we’ve chosen BCF.”

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