“You’re supposed to give until it hurts,” says ninety-year-old Henry Vander Kaay. “And I wasn’t hurting enough.”
Vander Kaay was active in Kiwanis and Motor Meals but says he felt “a little bit remiss about how much I had donated to charity.” So Vander Kaay, who now lives at Glacier Hills Manor senior housing, decided to give his large ranch house just west of Eberwhite Woods to the Salvation Army.
“I couldn’t think of any place better to give it,” he says simply. He still fondly remembers a trip to a free Salvation Army summer camp near Cleveland when he was a child. “I saw pollywogs and things I had never seen anywhere before,” he recalls.
Charities often receive donated stock, but homes are a rare gift. The U-M might get one a year from alumni or supporters, and this year the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation received two, both part of a woman’s estate. “Often it’s because there are no children,” explains AAACF CEO Cheryl Elliott, who expects to see more home donations in coming years with the generational transfer of wealth.
The Salvation Army has received a handful of homes before, says major John Williams. But Williams, who was stationed in the Flint area before coming to Ann Arbor this fall, calls Vander Kaay’s home “the finest house that I’ve had donated in Michigan.”
Williams says he expects to use the proceeds to increase the number of children who attend Salvation Army camps—a day camp in Ann Arbor and an overnight camp outside Oxford. “We’d like to double the summer day camp from thirty to forty to sixty to eighty kids,” he says, with scholarships honoring Vander Kaay’s homey gift.