Planning ahead through Philanthropy: Ilene’s Way of Saying Thank You
Ilene Borchert was one of 14 children raised on a farm near Melcher-Dallas. “We all had a certain job to do on the farm and knew it was necessary to work together. Families have a way of helping you realize you are needed and serve a greater purpose,” shared Ilene.
Not only did Ilene learn the value of team work from her family, she learned lessons of love and fairness. “My parents provided a loving atmosphere where each of us flourished and developed into individuals. With such a large family, my mother made sure we each were treated fairly. The value of fairness has been a guiding value throughout my life.”
At age 18, Ilene was able to begin high school. Her love of learning led to her to Parson’s College in Fairfield, Iowa, where she obtained a teaching degree and embarked on a 23-year career as a physical education instructor. Her mother’s early lessons on fairness surfaced when Ilene insisted all students—both males and females—had equal access to physical education opportunities. “I wanted all of my students to know anything was possible through learning. Education was one way you can change your life.”
Ilene’s career took a turn when she joined forces with two visionaries—Sister Patricia Claire Sullivan and Natalie Reese who recognized the need for compassionate, community-based older adult services in central Iowa. Ilene and her family had earlier made a generous gift in honor of their mother, Florence Willis Borchert, establishing the Willis Adult Day Care Center in Des Moines, a subsidiary of Mercy Medical Center, and the Willis Adult Day Care Center in Newton, now known as Willowbrook Adult Day Care Center. “We all recognized the need for older adults to live rich, independent lives in a safe environment for as long as possible,” said Ilene.
Today, Ilene remains a strong advocate for older adults and is pleased to serve as Mercy Park’s apartment manager, a position she has held for 26 years. Mercy Park is well-known senior living complex offering independent living options to over 200 older adults in Des Moines. One of her proudest moments has been the 2012 renovation of the Mercy Park Activity Center where generous community donors and Mercy Park residents contributed over $60,000 resulting in a fresh new look for the dining and activity center.
Recognizing that it takes both action and monetary resources to meet the needs of our community, Ilene made the choice to direct her philanthropic gifts to the vital work being done by Mercy. She has consistently supported Mercy through the Spirit of Mercy Campaign, and she has made major gifts to the Mercy Park Activity Center renovation taking advantage of recent legislation allowing philanthropic support by gifting IRA income to Mercy. Combining her love for education and for senior services, Ilene has established several Charitable Gift Annuities, and she has included a bequest in her will benefiting two of Mercy’s initiatives: Mercy College of Health Sciences and Mercy Park Apartments and Activity Center. “One of the greatest blessings of my time with the Mercy Foundation was meeting Ilene Borchert. Ilene’s leadership is exemplified in the very nature by which she serves Mercy…both in the caring interactions with the residents of Mercy Park Apartments, and in her charitable decision-making. Ilene steadily remains true to the mission of the Sisters of Mercy,” stated Lynda Jacobson, Mercy Foundation former executive director of gift planning.
“I grew up knowing that philanthropy was rooted in family—all my life I knew I was needed, and that we needed each other---philanthropy is for the good of all of people. I am pleased to say ‘thank you’ through these gifts for the many blessings I have been given: unconditional love, an appreciation of fairness and the joy of learning,” concluded Ilene. And, we thank Ilene for her foresight ensuring future generations will be well-served by the spirit of giving started long ago by the Sisters of Mercy.