Vern McGinnis Pays Tribute to Late Wife with Campaign Gift
Vern McGinnis’s philanthropic ideals took root when he was growing up on a farm near Cabery, a small town in Central Illinois. “Neighbors helped neighbors,” he says. “If someone needed something, help was there. It was part of your church, and it was in the school system. It was a natural extension of living in the community.”
That natural extension became an even bigger force in Vern’s life when he moved to Bloomington-Normal to begin a career at GROWMARK. In his new community he became involved with the United Way, the local chamber of commerce and Advocate BroMenn Medical Center.
Vern took on a succession of volunteer leadership roles at the medical center, including chairman of the Development Council and of its capital campaign. His passion was driven in part by the fact that the hospital had been there for him and his family for many years: His mother, father and brother had all received care there. “I came to realize how important health care is to a community’s quality of life, so making sure BroMenn was top-notch was a priority for me,” Vern says.
After Vern’s wife of 35 years, Janiece (“JJ”), passed away in 2011, Vern made a leadership gift in her memory to benefit the Mother Baby Unit in the medical center’s new patient tower. “JJ loved children, so I knew this would be a meaningful area to her,” says Vern, who used a planned gift to maximize his support. In recognition of his generosity, BroMenn Medical Center designated the lobby in the unit as the “Vern and Janiece ‘JJ’ McGinnis lobby.”
“The first time I saw the unit, it was bricks and planks, and I experienced a donor adrenaline rush, because I knew this was JJ’s space,” Vern says. “When I saw the completed space, I was speechless. It was perfect.”
In addition to memorializing JJ, Vern’s gift was cathartic for him. “It is important for people to be given the opportunity to make a gift like this, because it’s part of the healing process,” he says. “JJ would be really proud—it’s such a beautiful space.”
First published: Spring 2013