Jim and Sonia Maher have supported Sheppard Pratt in Frederick, previously called Way Station, for many years.
They moved to Frederick in the late 1970s. Sonia founded and became the first executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County (where she served until 1986), while Jim began investing in local real estate, purchasing an apartment building in downtown Frederick. That is when their advocacy work began.
With the shift to move people with mental illness out of institutions—where, historically, many lived for months or even years—community housing was a growing need. But most landlords refused to rent to people with mental illness. Jim was not one of those landlords. With open arms, he welcomed a tenant, who was also a patient at Sheppard Pratt, into his new building. He felt then, as now, that housing for people with mental illness is a social justice issue. “All people have value,” he says. “Everyone deserves a safe place to live.”
Jim acquired additional apartment buildings and embraced people living with mental illness in all of them. He joined the Way Station Board Property Committee to find even more ways to contribute to the cause. Sonia, an accomplished watercolor artist, got involved as well. She donated her collection of paintings to Sheppard Pratt. Some of those paintings were auctioned off in a benefit for the organization, while others hang in its offices, helping to facilitate a healing environment.
Jim and Sonia helped build acceptance of community housing for people with mental illness. Sonia collaborated with her connections at the chamber of commerce, while Jim forged strong relationships with his properties’ neighbors to address any concerns. Jim became a friend and mentor to his tenants, remaining in touch with some to this day. Their combined efforts helped to smooth the path for vulnerable people in Frederick—a community where Sheppard Pratt provides supported housing for over 200 individuals.
When it came time to make their estate plans, a bequest to Sheppard Pratt was the perfect capstone for a meaningful partnership. “When we leave this world, we want to feel that we continue to contribute to its well-being,” Sonia says. Their bequest ensures their commitment to improving the lives of people with mental illness will continue during their lifetimes and beyond.
An Invaluable Gift
Estate gifts like Jim and Sonia’s can take many forms and be large or small—every gift helps us provide for people with mental illness. You can choose to include Sheppard Pratt in your will or name Sheppard Pratt as the beneficiary of an account or life insurance policy.
For information about including Sheppard Pratt in your estate plan, please contact Julie Marshall, director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 667-203-3236.