Jim Sikorski Gives Back
Jim Sikorski learned the value of philanthropy at a young age, growing up in a Wisconsin-based middle class family that knew the importance of helping those in need. “My parents impressed upon us that first, we needed to grateful for what we had, and second, we needed to give back whenever we could and as much as we could. In fact, my parents often said that we should give until it hurt a little bit.”
That idea of sacrifice followed Jim throughout his life, and still informs his philanthropic spirit today. “I started out as a schoolteacher, so there weren’t a lot of opportunities to make impactful donations. Later I changed careers and climbed the corporate ladder, and that gave me the chance to give back to the city that had given me so much.”
For Jim, that meant becoming a fundraiser himself. “After building my house in the mid-90s, I was reflecting on the sheer number of holiday parties happening around town, in part because I was planning on hosting one of my own. I thought that if people could afford to get dressed up and go out and enjoy free food and drinks, then surely they could afford to bring a canned good or two by way of admission. That first year we donated a truckload of canned goods to Stone Soup Pantry, which was the HIV/AIDS food pantry at the time.” Jim’s “Share Your Blessings” holiday parties grew from there, and were soon raising thousands of dollars for non-profits in Houston.
One beneficiary of Jim’s philanthropy was Legacy Community Health, which Jim has donated to since we went by the name Montrose Clinic. “I met a man who stood up in a meeting and said that he would not be standing there if it weren’t for Legacy Community Health. He told a room full of people that there was no question in his mind that he would be dead, if not for Legacy. Listening to his conviction was both sobering and inspiring.”
But the connection goes beyond that for Jim. “As a gay man,” he says, “I can’t tell you the number of people I know who have been taken care of in their darkest hours by Legacy. I knew that in the 80s and 90s when it was harder for gay men to access care, and I know that today because I know people who are receiving compassionate, non-judgmental services from Legacy they couldn’t get elsewhere due to lack of funds or lack of insurance.”
Experiences like those compelled Jim to share his blessings, but it’s the new people he meets every year that keep him going. “I was talking with a schoolteacher at one of my holiday parties who, like me once upon a time, didn’t have the resources to donate much money,” Jim says. “She talked about how badly she wanted to make an impact, but that she simply she couldn’t give much. I reassured her that it wasn’t the amount that mattered, but rather what mattered was her desire to do something and the intent in her heart. At the end of our talk, she handed me a crumpled $10 bill.”
“People like that motivate me to do better and dream bigger,” Jim says. “She gave what she could, even when it hurt. It was all the more meaningful when, a few years later, she and her wife donated several hundred dollars at one of my events through the silent auction.”
When it came time to prepare for the days “when I have to stop partying,” Jim says with a laugh, “it was incredibly easy to set up a major gift for Legacy that will come straight from my retirement account.” Jim sat down with his financial advisor and together they mapped out his economic future. Jim says he “wanted to be able to take care of myself, to enjoy my retirement, and then have enough to leave something behind for Legacy.” They ran the numbers and came up with a plan that let Jim do all three.
Jim is inspired to keep giving back by the philanthropy of others, and hopes his planned gift can do the same for anyone out there who hasn’t completed their estate plans. Jim says he hopes “to be able to inspire other people of all ages to make long-term plans. From people my age to those climbing their own corporate ladder, everyone should know that they have the opportunity to keep doing good, even when we’re all not here any longer. I can think of no greater legacy than that.”