(From left to right) Paula McClain, Principal of Mississippi School for the Deaf; Jane Alexander, President and CEO, Community Foundation for Mississippi; David McRae, State Treasurer; Jeremy Stinson, Superintendent of Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind; and Eddie Spann, Principal of Mississippi School for the Blind stand together at the Lifeshare House on the campus of the Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind during a May 11, 2023 press conference.
Treasurer McRae said Ms. Zeita Parker’s estate had given the Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind roughly $250,000.
On Thursday, the Community Foundation for Mississippi (CFM), State Treasurer David McRae, and the Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind (MSDB) held a press conference to announce the creation of a new fund at CFM to benefit MSDB.
The first disbursement from the fund is being used to support prom and graduation activities.
Jane Alexander, CEO and President of Community Foundation for Mississippi, explained that the Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that helps donors achieve their charitable giving goals.
Alexander said that one day, she received an email from a former journalism student of hers who worked at the Treasurer’s office, and said they were trying to place “found money.” A check was found that was made out to “Community Foundation of” with the rest of the wording cut off. Alexander said they did some digging and what they discovered was that Zeita Parker, who died in 2015, worked with an Attorney to make an estate plan due to her terminal illness. Alexander added that Parker got four out of the five charitable gifts set up before she passed away.
“When she died, she left a gift to the Community Foundation in order to set up a fund to benefit the Schools for the Deaf and Blind, we just didn’t know any of that because she had died before she could tell us,” Alexander said. “We’re here today to share this story because a). it’s a great story and b). we really encourage people, as much as you can, to make your wishes known. make your wishes known to your family, make your wishes known to your friends, make your wishes known to your attorneys and your professional advisors because her attorney was actually somebody we knew.”
Alexander said for them, the happiest part of the story is that they are able to help Ms. Parker achieve what she wanted to achieve, which was a fund that will help enrich the lives of the students at the schools. She added that they worked with the administration to give two gifts, one in the fall and one in the spring, in order for it to be used to its advantage.
“With all the pieces of the bequest puzzle together, the Zeita and Wayne Parker Charitable Fund is now open at CFM,” the Community Foundation for Mississippi said. “Their spring request has already gone to good use, supporting extras for prom and graduation festivities, including two scholarships – just the way the Parkers would have wanted it.”
State Treasurer McRae said he has had a personal connection with estate planning. He explained that he knows it’s very complicated and that it is an insanely difficult conversation to have with planning.
“Because you’re talking about giving away your money, your funds after you’ve died,” McRae said. “It’s a very difficult discussion to have and a lot of people avoid that, a lot of people just don’t want to have it so they’ll die or pass away and they will not have a will or an estate plan. Sometimes even the best of intentions with estate planning gets lost in the shuffle, as we see here with Mrs. Parker’s estate.”
The State Treasurer stated that Ms. Parker set aside money and through no fault of her own, the money got lost. He stated that they were happy to find this money last Christmas.
“Through some digging and what not, we found that Ms. Parker’s estate had given the Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind roughly $250,000 to set up for these young men and women to have events here for them,” McRae said. “And tonight, they will have a prom here and that is because of Mrs. Parker.”
Jeremy Stinson, Superintendent of Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind, expressed his gratitude for Treasurer McRae and his staff for taking time to investigate this incidence and to ensure Mrs. Parker’s legacy was carried on.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the Parker family for their continued support of our schools and the Community Foundation of Mississippi for overseeing that endowment,” Stinson said. “My only regret is not being able to meet the Parker family and thank them personally for all they’ve done for our schools. So our promise to them, and the endowment, is to be good stewards of all that the Parker family has provided to us.”
“What an incredible surprise and blessing to find out that such a generous gift was left to our district through the Zeita and Wayne Parker Charitable Fund,” continued Stinson. “Our residential schools are truly a home away from home, and it was Mrs. Parker’s desire to support our students for all of the ‘extras’ they miss from home, such as prom dresses and birthday parties. This is just one of many ways the Parkers have supported MSDB through the years, and we are so very thankful.”
Following the press conference, two students of the Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind were awarded a $1,000 scholarship each as they prepare to graduate.