Written by Emily Mullins
The Rev. Alden C. Hebard and his family have ties to Brookfield (Mass.) Congregational Church United Church of Christ that span as far back as 1945, and the picturesque church has been an important part of the Hebard family's lives. A rekindling of this personal connection to the congregation has inspired Hebard to begin a legacy of giving 26 years after leaving town.
"People give for two basic reasons," he said. "First, their image of the recipient work is positive and hopeful, and second, they have a connection."
The Hebard family roots in Brookfield Congregational go deep. His grandfather served as deacon and treasurer, his father also was a deacon and sang in the choir, and his mother headed the women's fellowship. During breaks from college in Boston, Hebard was active in the choir and the youth group. The Brookfield pastor played a part in Hebard's ordination service in 1953, and the church served as a neutral pulpit for a candidating experience after his first pastorate.
But after his father died in 1977, Hebard's mother moved to Cape Cod to live with him and his wife. With no remaining connections to Brookfield, Hebard was certain his relationship with the church was over as well. "My family's Brookfield property was sold, and with that, the presence of our family appeared to conclude," Hebard said. "The chapter closed."
Although finally settling in Des Moines, Iowa, and joining Plymouth United Church of Christ there, Hebard made it a point to check in on his former congregation in the annual UCC Yearbook. Each year the "sleepy" church showed little change in activity –– until 2003 when it spent $375,000 in capital expenses. Curious by what he saw, Hebard wrote to the minister, who called Hebard to explain that the roof and parts of the foundation of the church had all but rotted away. That spark of nostalgia for his former church inspired Hebard to donate $500 toward the restoration project.
"With that one gesture, the minister reconnected me with a part of our family history," Hebard said.
As a donor, Hebard began receiving the Brookfield monthly church newsletter and occasional correspondence from the minister. Reconnected with the church that had once meant so much to him, Hebard started making annual donations. Taking it one step further, Hebard used a certificate of deposit that had matured at his local bank and took out a gift annuity with Brookfield Congregational as the end recipient.
"In the near future, I'll get a far more handsome rate of return than with the bank CD, and when I pass on, the Brookfield folks get the money," he said. "To me, it's a win-win all around."
While Hebard still makes the Des Moines' Plymouth Church his major giving beneficiary, he is humbled by his reconnection to Brookfield and the special meaning the church has to him and his family. He feels it is this kind of personal tie that inspires people to give, and even the smallest effort can reignite the spark. "I thought in 1977 that the Brookfield connection had ended," he said. "But the little extra effort by a concerned pastor in 2003 reconnected me, and everyone is happier for it."