When Tom and Julie Joas' grandchildren open Christmas gifts each year, they read a thank you card from an international charity for a gift given in their name. The gift provides chickens, goats, freshwater kits, or other critical needs in a third-world country.
Through an endowment fund the retired couple has established, they will perpetually continue helping third-world countries as well as their cherished Chippewa Falls community. "We have been fortunate to live in a good country, state, and city and be members of good families," they said.
The couple established the Thomas J. and Julie A. Joas Endowment Fund to benefit international charity ELCA Good Gifts and four local organizations: the Feed My People Food Bank, Central Lutheran Church Foundation, UWEC Foundation, and the Chippewa Valley Cultural Association.
Tom and Julie were married in 1969 at Lowry Air Force Base outside Denver, Colorado. Both were raised in the Chippewa Falls area and attended UW-Eau Claire. During their college years, Tom's service in the U.S. Air Force took them to Colorado, Texas, and Virginia before returning to Eau Claire. After he finished his business management degree at UW-Eau Claire, they lived in the Twin Cities for a few years.
"Then we realized that Chippewa Falls was a great place to raise a family, so we moved back here," said Tom, 69. They value the community's size, beauty, strong schools, safety, easy work commute compared with big cities, and friendliness. "When you walk down the street, people come out and talk to you. You always know someone downtown or wherever you are," said Julie, 67. "It has Irvine Park, the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, Lake Wissota, Duncan Creek, the Chippewa River, Olson's Ice Cream, and a choice of many good churches, restaurants, and other places to socialize," they said.
Their son, Chris, and his wife, Lori, live in the Madison area. Daughter Jocelyn lives in Eau Claire with her husband, Jon, and their three grandchildren, ages 11, 15, and 19. Two Shorkies - 4-year-old Shih Tzu and Yorkie mixes - are the latest of their canine and feline companions over the years. Both are retired from careers at Cray: He was an administrator of the engineering department; she managed data and did technical writing. As they considered how best to share their good fortune with others long term, the Community Foundation was a strong contender. "My uncle, Joe Joas, left most of his estate to the Foundation a few years back, and we have witnessed all the good that has and will continue to come from his funds through the Foundation for many, many years," Tom said.
The list of local charities the Foundation supports and its good reputation for fund management instilled further confidence in working with the Foundation. "The clincher was that they could accommodate an international beneficiary too," Tom said. Both are excited about what the fund can accomplish. Professional financial management will maximize the benefit to others perpetually, they said.
Grants support multiple organizations, chosen by the donor, throughout Chippewa County.