As we mourn the recent passing of honorary WesleyLife Foundation board member and generous donor James "Jim" Collier, please take a moment to read Jim's thoughts - previously published in the WesleyLife Foundation newsletter - about the importance to him and his family of the WesleyLife promise. We are forever grateful to Jim for all his support, and our prayers are with his family and others close to him.
Jim Collier says his inspiration as a philanthropist has everything to do with community impact.
“I’m not focused on money; I’m focused on improving quality of life,” Collier explains. Over the past 19 years, he has donated more than $1.3 million to WesleyLife in honor of his mother and stepfather, who lived at Wesley on Grand (formerly Wesley Acres) until 1999. His overarching goal as a WesleyLife donor is to continue supporting the health and well-being of older adults.
“My parents donated quite handsomely to Wesley on Grand, and I felt I should carry on the tradition,” he says. “They loved the care they received, and they were very happy there.”
Collier’s stepfather, Raymond Baker, worked for 43 years at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, first as a product-development researcher and then as director of corn breeding. He and Collier’s mother, Mary Collier Baker, a teacher, lived at Wesley on Grand for their final 10 years and enjoyed time with their church friends and in the community.
“When Mom first moved into assisted living in 2012, there was so much information to absorb that I don’t recall exactly everything that was said. However, the thing I do remember is that the community promised Mom she would never have to leave for financial reasons," Jim says.
"How could this be? If Mom ever ran out of funds by no fault of her own while she was living there (which was not anticipated), Wesley would not ask her to leave. This is what they call the WesleyLife Promise.
“It wasn’t until later that I began to understand how the Good Samaritan Fund works. My mother and two women living on her floor made the fund’s significance very personal when they explained how it helped one of their friends remain at the community. Whenever we walked by the Good Samaritan Fund poster in the hall, my mother would point to it and proudly say she had contributed, which always pleased me.
“Eventually, the unanticipated did happen. Even after years of investing and sensible financial planning, Mom outlived her money. With the help of team members at Wesley on Grand, including the head nurse in assisted living, I completed the state financial assistance paperwork. Thanks to the fund, Mom was able to stay in her apartment, which she loved."
As a retired high school English teacher, Collier taught thousands of kids throughout his career. He is a devoted family man.
“I had two birth parents and two stepparents, and all four of them influenced me in a positive way,” he says, adding he was extremely close to his mother, and his stepmother was an excellent cook.
Collier says he feels a call to help preserve the history of the Des Moines community.
“I was inspired by the history and the story of the Chamberlain family,” he says of his most recent generous gift, which supports the Chamberlain project — a restoration of the historic Chamberlain Mansion on the grounds of the Wesley on Grand campus.
“I want to help keep history alive in the Des Moines community and Iowa, and keeping the Chamberlain House up to snuff is part of that.”
We are honored that Jim values the care WesleyLife provides to our community’s older adults, and we thank him for helping to preserve Des Moines’ history. Learn more about making a gift at WesleyLife.org/foundation.