Bob Courtemanche and Eileen Keaveny, who retired as a physics teacher and a psychotherapist, respectively, have a special place in their hearts for the meaning of home. For the past four years, they’ve put their values into action as Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers (among other Red Cross roles), delivering hope and help to people facing devastating loss. And they recently took the step of leaving their home to the American Red Cross via a beneficiary deed.
“The loss of one’s home is like nothing else,” they emphasize. Now based in Western Colorado, they previously lived in the Gold Country region of California that was ravaged by fire this year. Before moving to Colorado, they had felt the imminent dangers of that region’s wildfires, literally in their backyard. There, they first served as event-based volunteers during the Santa Rosa Fire in 2017, were trained and deployed to the Paradise Fire in 2018, and have served as DAT and shelter volunteers many times since. In 2020, they were part of the Red Cross response to the largest wildfires in Colorado history in the Loveland and Grand Lake areas.
Visiting friends in their former California neighborhood in October 2021 was an intense experience, and they could well imagine how hard their former DAT colleagues were working. Friends there had been evacuated for two weeks, but fortunately, their homes were not destroyed. And though Bob and Eileen were responding to disasters in their own region and not deployed away from home this year, they stood ready to go whenever and wherever needed, keeping current with the special COVID safety requirements of Emergency Response Vehicle and shelter work.
In 2020, during the COVID shutdown, Bob and Eileen became motivated to get their estate planning done. Their attorney gave them guidance to make many of their directives through beneficiary designations, including deeds for their home and their vehicles, a practical option under Colorado law.
Eileen describes the message she sent to her 14 nieces and nephews, in a letter she wrote them in 2020 when sending them financial gifts. She wrote that she and Bob wanted to give their family members their ‘inheritance’ ahead of time, and explained why they’d decided to leave most of their property to certain nonprofits, to take care of the future for the planet, saying, “then it’s your turn.“
For Bob and Eileen, living their values and documenting them in their estate plans is an important way to transmit their values to future generations. By sheltering people during these disasters, the Red Cross enables people to respond to and recover from an effect of climate change, and for this reason Bob and Eileen chose the Red Cross to receive their home. Now they tell their friends and relatives to get their estate planning done, testifying that it’s easy, and “feels very freeing” to have it completed. “Should anything happen, it’s all taken care of.”
And now when, as volunteers, they bring comfort, supplies, and financial assistance to vulnerable Red Cross clients, they make sure to tell the recipients that this assistance is a gift of the American people (not from the government). “The American people are extremely generous. No matter what side one may take in society’s great divides,” Bob says, “everyone can agree on that.”
If you would like information about how you can support our mission and help those in need by creating your own legacy like Bob and Eileen have done, please contact our Gift Planning Office at, 1-800-797-8022, ext. 5, firstname.lastname@example.org.