Though Joyce Stokes grew up in a small town, she had big-city dreams. And one of those dreams was to make a difference. Thanks to careful planning, Joyce fulfilled her philanthropic desires—both during her lifetime and after.
"She was the most independent of all her siblings," her nephew Ted Beckett says. "She led a full life with lots of interesting experiences."
After graduating from Florida State University, Joyce moved to Washington, D.C., where she taught middle school. From there, she moved to Japan and taught English. After she returned to the U.S., she lived in New York City and began her business career working for Macy's.
"This was highly unusual for that time," Ted says. "Here was this young lady from a small Florida town, so moving to Japan and living in New York City was a big leap."
With a desire to be closer to home but still live in a large city, Joyce eventually found herself in Atlanta, where she began a long career as a human resources manager with The Coca-Cola Company.
"I think she was just a model of how to live a good life. She was such a classy person. When I visited her, she'd always invite me along to business dinners and things like that. I would see the way she conducted herself, and I just learned a lot from her," Ted recalls.
A longtime friend and business colleague of Joyce, Dave Polstra, also was profoundly impacted by his connection to Joyce. Co-founder of Brightworth, an Atlanta-based wealth management firm, Dave first met Joyce in the 1980s when he began offering retirement workshops for Coca- Cola executives. She first came to watch Dave teach a class at Emory University and agreed to bring him to Coca-Cola to teach in 1988. The two often traveled together, as Dave brought his workshops to Coke employees around the U.S.
After retiring from Coca-Cola in the 1990s, Joyce, who had no children and was a remarried widow, asked Dave to help her plan her estate around philanthropy. To that end, Dave helped Joyce set up a charitable remainder trust. This giving vehicle enabled Joyce to receive income, as well as a tax deduction, from the trust with the remainder of the assets going to Joyce's charities of choice. Joyce's terms allowed her to change the charitable beneficiaries as she felt the need.
Joyce initially chose a children's home in another state, and though he says he doesn't usually try to change clients' minds, Dave was moved after a talk and tour of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Because of his personal relationship with Joyce, he felt comfortable asking if she would be open to touring Children's. She was as impressed as Dave was and, in 2010, changed one of her beneficiaries to Children's. Then, in 2014, she decided to make Children's the sole beneficiary of her charitable remainder trust. When Joyce died in 2016, her estate made a contribution of more than $2 million to Children's.
"Joyce was a very successful businesswoman, but she was not at the highest echelons of The Coca-Cola Company. Still, she was able to make a significant impact through a well-designed charitable giving plan," Dave says. "It just shows that you don't have to be a multi-millionaire to make a difference. It just takes the desire and some creative planning."
For help getting started planning your estate, contact Mary L. McCormack at 404-785-9481 or Cell: 706-540-2885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.