Written by Anthony Moujaes
Stephanie Telleen chose to remember Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in her will when she passed away, leaving her half-million dollar estate to the church. Now the Oklahoma City church will use that estate to remember Telleen for her selflessness and generosity by funding two missions close to her heart.
Mayflower Congregational voted Sunday, March 30, to sell the cottage in which Telleen lived. The Rev. Lori Walke, associate pastor, said that the church will invest a majority of the money from the sale of the home, and will use the investment gains to donate to Mayflower Medical Outreach, a medical mission providing ear, nose and throat care in Nicaragua, and to the 363 Group, a nonprofit that serves meals every other Saturday to the homeless and poor in Oklahoma City.
"She lived a humble and simple lifestyle, and was committed to the things and values that the United Church of Christ promotes," Walke said of Telleen, who died in October. "She took care of other people. She took care of the planet."
Walke added that Telleen expressed interest in finishing Mayflower Congregational’s work to complete a columbarium, which is a place for a respectful and public display for urns. The congregation voted to use some money from the sale of the house to finish that project. Telleen’s ashes are interred at Mayflower Congregational.
When the columbarium is complete, it will be "a place to honor loved ones, and it can be a peaceful place," Walke said.
Many who knew Telleen, who never married and had no children, offered their thoughts when the church was deciding what to do with the estate.
"We kept hearing the same things [from people on how best to use the estate]," Walke said. "She loved the Mayflower Medical Outreach, and she served at 363 Group every other Saturday by giving money and cooking meals for the homeless."
The gift will also provide Mayflower Medical Outreach and 363 Group more than one lump donation. "The idea is to grow the fund so there’s more money to give out. It would be easy to give the money away now… but then it’s all gone. Investing it is our way of being responsible."
Telleen’s estate is worth about $500,000, including the value of the house. She has four younger brothers who live in Iowa, and when they came to Oklahoma City they saw their sister had a strong connection to her faith community.
In Telleen’s final days, "there were always people from the church, two or three at a time, holding vigil with her," Walke said. "It was church at its best."