A foundation of giving through bequests was established early in Calvary’s extraordinary history.

On June 12, 1899, the “House of Calvary” (as Calvary Hospital was then known) opened its doors with the express purpose of administering to the needs of female cancer patients. A remarkable woman named Annie Blount Storrs, having witnessed the success of a lay organization called the Women of Calvary operating in cities throughout France and Belgium, decided to replicate the concept in Manhattan.

Annie, a prominent philanthropist widowed at an early age, determined she would dedicate her life to serving the poor and destitute by providing them with compassionate care at life’s end. She persuaded 11 other women, also widows, to join the mission and together these devout Catholic women founded the American Women of Calvary. It was the first organization of its kind in the U.S.

From the outset, Calvary embraced people of all faiths and ethnicities. In petitioning New York City’s Board of Aldermen for funding in 1902, Annie wrote, “The patients received in the House of Calvary are poor women afflicted with chronic cancer, whom hospitals will not receive, or retain after an operation has been performed, and no discrimination is made in regard to color, race, or religion, suffering and poverty being the claims to admission.”

The public soon took notice of what the Women of Calvary were accomplishing through their own resources and exemplary personal sacrifice. Individual donors began to pledge their support for this inherently democratic organization. These early donors (referred to as subscribers), recognized the importance of providing quality care to women at the end of their lives. In a letter dated February 26, 1900 (see photo above), Annie Blount Storrs wrote Archbishop Michael Corrigan, reporting the news of Calvary’s first bequest from one of the initial subscribers.

This special form of charity, frequently referred to as a legacy gift, was (as it is now) inspired by the unique service demonstrated by the Calvary staff and the tremendous needs of the Calvary patients. As the years passed these generous bequests, combined with the generous spirit that infused Calvary’s core mission, has resulted in a “legacy of legacies.” Today donors continue to include bequests to Calvary in their wills, maintaining this inspired tradition.

A few years ago, Calvary established an honorary society to recognize those who have included Calvary in their estate plan with a bequest or planned gift for the hospital. Named The Society of 1899 (to commemorate the year Calvary was founded), the Society celebrates Calvary’s distinguished past and bright future.

Sometimes these legacies come from people of means whose good fortune in business or investing has provided them with resources to share. But more often these thoughtful gifts come from small business owners, housewives, teachers, public servants, and professionals. Regardless of the size of the legacy gift, all who give in this way are united in the belief that what Calvary does has significance. They can be confident that their contributions extend the impact of their lives by providing critical health care for future generations.

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